LIRNEasia HazInfo project partner Nalaka Gunawardene has written an excellent piece on ICTs and disasters, referring in some detail to the ongoing HazInfo project.
While the countries of South and Southeast Asia were largely unprepared to act on the tsunami, it was not really a complete surprise. As the killer waves originating from the ocean near Indonesia’s Sumatra Island radiated across the Indian Ocean at the speed of a jetliner, the alert about the impending tsunami moved through the Internet at the speed of light. Scientists at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) in Hawaii, who had detected the extraordinary seismic activity, issued a local tsunami warning one hour and five minutes after the undersea quake.
That was a bit too late for Indonesia – which, being closest to the quake’s epicentre, was already hit – but it could have made a difference in countries further away, such as India, Sri Lanka and Thailand. As is now well established, an authentic warning was delivered to each country, but there were few listeners at the receiving end – and even fewer to act on it.