December 26 marks the 16th anniversary of the massive Indian Ocean tsunami. On this day, a tsunami rising 100 feet due to a magnitude 9.1 earthquake, one of the largest earthquakes on record, killed more than 230,000 people in South Asia. With the epicenter near Sumatra, Indonesia, the earthquake triggered tsunamis that struck Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia.
Vasily Titov, a tsunami researcher and predictor at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Center for Tsunami Research, cites the destructive power of the 2004 tsunami of the earthquake in the Great Rift, where heavy oceanic plates descend beneath the lighter continental plates. History reminded him: “They are the largest cracks in the world and they are all underwater.” He added that the tsunami waves can be seen like a large pebble falling into the ocean causing huge ripples.
The Sumatra earthquake and tsunami are one of the things that open India’s eyes as it introduced the Indian coast to its tsunami and its destructive power. Learning from an unprecedented natural disaster that has resulted in such massive damage to lives and property, the Ministry of Land established the Indian Tsunami Early Warning System (ITEWS) at the Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad in October 2007.
Scientists in India are now able to predict movements in the Indian Ocean through real-time seismic monitoring using bottom pressure recorders (BPR), tide gauges and an operational 24/7 tsunami warning system to detect earthquakes generated by tsunamis to provide early alerts For the most vulnerable groups.
UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) has also initiated a community-based performance-based program known as Tsunami Ready to encourage tsunami preparedness through the active participation of the public, community leaders and national and local emergency management agencies. As part of the UNESCO-Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission framework, the Information and Early Warning Center (ITEWC) now provides guidance to all countries of the Indian Ocean rim.
India is the first country to establish an early warning system for tsunami detection, while Odisha is the first state in the country to gain tsunami-ready recognition.
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