Nature rules us all. The bountiful nature that sustains the entire living world on our planet has a furious face as well. Traumatized by the towering waves of Tsunami – the most savage force of nature – that hit the South-East Asian Coastlines, humankind is reminded of it’s helplessness in the face of Nature’s fury, although timely warning of such unstoppable disasters can surely help in lessening the overall devastation.
Have you ever imagined gigantic sea waves, moving nearly at the speed of a jet plane, appearing without a warning and hitting the coastlines like a ‘water bomb’. Loaded with enormous energy, the killer waves wreck havoc by flooding several kilometers inland, as they flatten houses and wipe out villages, uproot electric poles, throw cars into swirling waters and toss boats ashore all in a mad furry and finally, drag thousands of hapless victims out to the Sea as they recede. Sounds of pathetic wails engulf the area as loved ones are separated from each other and some forever… Leaving a trail of total destruction, the ruinous waves simply spell disaster. Unfortunately, this is not a scene from a horror movie but is a real life happening.
This natural disaster, known as ‘tsunami’ (soo-NAH-mee) – a destructive, ocean-riding wave created by an undersea disturbance – struck the coastal areas of South-East Asia in the early hours of Sunday, 26th December, 2004. Caught unware by the waves of doom by the fury of sea waves were scores of human lives and suddenly as the hell broke loose, the beautiful beaches brimming with life a few hours ago, transformed into graveyards with dead bodies lying amid torn fishing nets, smashed boats and debris strewn all around.
Millions suffered the terrifying burnt of the assault while thousands of people died an unnatural death. The worst hit nation is Indonesia where a staggering one lakh are estimated to have perished in the wake of this mammoth devastation. Sri Lanka was also hit very brutally by tsunami; as the death toll has been about 31,000 in this island nation.
Tsunami is a Japanese word represented by two characters; tsu and nami. The character tsu means ‘harbour’ while the character nami means ‘wave’. Most tsunami is occured in the Pacific Ocean. Some deadliest Tsunamis are: November 1st, 1755 (Lisbon, Portugal and much of Europe) killed 60,000 people. August 27th, 1883: Eruptions from the Krakatoa volcano fueled a tsunami; killing 36,000 people. June15th, 1896: Sea waves as high as 30 meters, spawned by an earthquake , which swept the east coast of Japan killing 27,000 people. March 27th, 1964: known as ‘Alaskan Good Friday’ earthquake that measured 8.4 on Ricter Scale, generated a tsunami and killed many people in Cresent City, northern California. July17th, 1998 an earthquake of magnitude 7.1 generated a Tsunami in Papua New Guinea that killed 2,200 people.
Though Tsunami’s are often referred to as tidal waves but this is incorrect as tides can also happen due to gravitational influences of the Moon, Sun, and Planets. A point to note is that tsunami’s are not always due to ‘Seismic sea waves’, as they may also be generated due to landslides, volcanic eruptions and quite rarely by the import of a large meteorite falling in the Ocean.
The Asian toll took over 1,50,000 lives, the death toll in India rose to 9,451 by January 2nd, 2005 with 5,511 persons missing. The number of deaths stood at 812 in the Andaman and Nicober Islands, 574 in Pondicherry, 166 in Kerala and 106 in Andhra Pradesh. Around 5,421 were missing in the case of Andaman and Nicober Islands; out of this; 4,657 were missing from Katchal Islands alone. An estimated 10,000 people are said to have died in the Nicober group of islands. The islands were badly hit, both, beacuse of their proximity to the epicentre of the earthquake and the fact that the tectonic activity actually led to the subsidence of the islands. Great Nicober, the southern most island in the group is about 150 km from the epicentre at Banda Aceh in Sumatra in Indonesia. A good indicator is the fact that the light house at Indira Point, the southernmost tip of Great Nicober Island, now stands in the ocean waters, when earlier it was at least about 100 metres inland from the high tide line.
In the first few days of the tragedy, little was known of the destruction that had occured further South in the Central Nicober group comprising the inhabitated islands of Nancowry, Camorta, Katchal, Trinket, Chowra, Peressa and Bompoka and the Southern group where there were human population on Great Nicober, Little Nicober, Pilomilo and kondul. The worst hit region by the Tsunami was Indonesia, which lost more lives than any other country. Dozens of bloated bodies littered the streets of Banda Aceh city as soldiers and desperate relatives searched for survivors of the earthquake and tidal waves. Several hundred bodies collected by the emergency workers lay under plastic tents and rotting on December 27th, 2004. Dozens of bodies were laid in ruins in Banda Aceh, capital of Aceh province. In sumatra a million people were left homeless. Villagers in Sunadon district were picked through the debris of their ruined houses amid the smell of decomposing bodies. Atleast 4,491 persons were killed on Sumatra island and on Nais, an isolated island that lies west of Sumatra. So, apart from India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, countries affected are Thailand, Malaysia, Somalia and Maldives.
The titanic tsunami that wrought unprecented death and destruction in South and South-east Asia will go down in history as one of the greatest natural calamities of modern times.
The Titanic Tsunami that wrought unprecedented death and destruction in South and South-East Asia will go down in history as one of the greatest natural calamities of modern times. The great disaster caught the people and the Government off guard and in a matter of minutes, snuffed out more than 1,50,000 lives across more than twelve countries. The number of people rendered homeless might run into millions as no estimate is immediately available as to how many children have become orphans or how many women have become widows and how many families have been wiped out in a single sweep. The biggest ever International relief operation was on; as the fear of an epidemic loomed large.
The catastrophe spawned by tsunami once gain underscored the need for a well-planned disaster management; it did show that we are totally ill-prepared to cope up with such kind of crisis, natural or man-made.
Years passed but still that old question comes to my mind; Are we ready for another Tsunami?” If History repeats itself; shall again our brothers and sisters have to meet the same fate, which was faced by the people on 26th December, 2004?”
The enormity of the tragedy that overtook South Asia would have been eased the countries had a good international warning system and good awareness programs about the do’s and don’ts in the fall out of a deadly disaster (Pre-disaster management policies).
The Department of Space, India have already established more than 250 cyclone warning receivers that can be activated via satellite; all these is very useful for tsunami warning. more such receivers is the need of the time. The time has also come to stress on community education keeping along with the disaster management theme of this year that “disaster Management” should begin at School. This will enable the people to know exactly what they should do; when the warning is sounded.
Disasters like cyclones, droughts, floods, earthquakes, Tsunamis and now biological and along with man-made tragedies along with communal riots due to race, ethnicity or religion is leading to Social disasters, may become burning issues in the years to come. We have to join hands to stop it happening and celebrate with the true spirit of humanity to make a disaser free world for us as well as for our future generations.
So, what is required is a comprehensive blueprint as to how to cope with such crisis in both the short-term and long-term manner. There need to have good mass awareness programs stressing the importance of pre-disaster management policies; along with that there needs to be social, physical, emotional or physcological and economic rehabilitation in the wake of a massive disaster. Ever step need to be taken to help the victims forget for ever, the trauma they have taken gone through.
Its true that this is not an easy task.
The orphans need a home and parents who can adopt them. Most of the victims have to start life a fresh beginning with a new home and a new vocation. Its a gigantic task where the fortunate ones who have escaped the fury of nature must contribute their mite so that the calamity struck must feel that there are others who care for them.
Lastly I just want to stress on the point that It’s not the Government agencies alone, but every citizen must act to help others in distress.
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Disaster Management Specialist and Writer