New Straits Times – Malaysia News Online
Unlike other natural calamities, the worst effects of the tsunami are now mostly avoidable. So following the catastrophe, countries around the ocean’s rim, helped by the United Nations and other partners, went about putting an early warning system into place.
None of the fancy equipment and good intentions made a difference last Monday when a 7.7-magnitude undersea quake south of Java triggered a tsunami that smashed into 200 kilometres of coastline around Pangandaran.
What ensued was a scaled-down reprise of December 2004: communities caught by surprise, the death toll mounting as bodies are uncovered and, most regretfully, alarm bells lost in transmission. To be fair, unlike its much bigger but slower rolling predecessor, the Java temblor gave the Indonesian Bureau of Meteorology and Geophysics only 20 minutes to sound an alert.
Even with the best communications, that would not have been long enough to evacuate the shore. Given the fact that most of the fishing villagers did not have TVs or telephones, any rescue plan would have been dead on the water well before it could get off the ground.
Java illustrates the importance of the \”last mile\” in the early warning network. In Thailand, the crucial distance between centralised detection and the often isolated coast is being closed by education and drills.