The money for Tsunami aid should come from US military budget
Ecological Devastation and Coastal Over-development Made Tsunami Damage Worse
In 2000 years, nearly 20 tsunamis have been recorded in the Mediterranean, some of which were deadly such as in 551 along the Lebanese-Syrian coast, in Egypt in the 4th and 14th centuries or at Messina in Italy in 1908, according to Paul Tapponnier, a geologist at the Institut Physique du Globe de Paris (IPG).
[the story from the Old Testament of the "parting of the Red Sea" was probably just a report about a tsunami]
Main Aid Groups
Starhawk (the writer) offers suggestions for nonviolence non-governmental groups
that will spend your donations very efficiently
Direct Relief International International
Médecins Sans Frontières International Tsunami Emergency Appeal
Oxfam Asian Earthquake & Tsunami Fund
Sarvodaya Relief Fund for Tsunami Tragedy
Save the Children Asia Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Fund
UNICEF South Asia Tsunami Relief Efforts
The island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean is home to a US military base that hosts B-2 "Stealth" bombers that cost $2 billion (or more) a piece. This bomber post could pay for much of the reconstruction for the tsunami victims -- if we had a civilization concerned about our collective survival.
Diego Garcia had only minor damage from the tsunami (due to the topography in the ocean, supposedly).
The indigenous inhabitants of Diego Garcia were expelled from their homeland by the British empire to make way for the US base. It is a key strategic outpost for global nuclear war and for planes used to bomb Iraq. It makes a mockery of US claims for "democracy" when the legitimate "owners" of this place were thrown out of their own land to make way for imperialistic warfare.
In case any of you are inclined & have the capacity to support tsunami relief efforts monetarily:
Sarvodaya is a 47-year-old nonviolence movement working for peace & community development in Sri Lanka. I offer them out as one place to send donations with the knowledge that they will go to those who need them most regardless of religion, ethinicity, or political membership, and with far less administrative cost than the "big name" US-based relief organizations.
In my opinion it is a more effective use of resources to funnel them directly to local communities & economies in that region, rather than flying Americans over the ocean & back to help (= giving money to airline corporations & oil companies!).
There is also more information about this group on www.sarvodaya.org if you'd like to learn more. Their philosophy statement is at http://www.sarvodaya.org/Inside_Page/dev%20model.htm Tax-deductible donations can be made online; make sure to use the secure PayPal "Make A Donation" button. Sarvodaya USA is a 501(c)3 organization, tax ID 13-3358148.
From "Living Earth" in Portland, Oregon:
Sarvodaya delivers assistance in Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and Christian communities. To America's shame, US government assistance explicitly will NOT be allowed to help millions of Sri Lankan Tamils residing in areas controlled by the Tamil Tigers, although they are a legally recognized political entity in Sri Lanka. Sarvodaya does not restrict assistance based on political agenda or ethnic differences. ....
You can also contact your elected representatives to urge them to ensure the US sends significant support for the nations affected by this natural disaster. If we re-direct a small fraction of what we are pouring onto the fires of war to humanitarian, non-sectarian aid, perhaps we can regain some small portion of our dignity in the family of nations.
[For recovery assistance in Sri Lanka, consider Sarvodaya, the mass-membership nonviolent grassroots spiritual organization that has been promoting peace in that civil-war-torn nation. The following was received from my colleague Sharif Abdullah, who has been doing work with them for many years. -- Tom Atlee]
Many of you have asked how you can help with the relief efforts. What is needed right now is MONEY. Money for water and water purifiers, money for tents and food. Money to bury the dead and to care for the living. Sending a water purifier will do little… sending the money for the water purifier is most effective in both time and cost.
The best way is to get money into the hands of those who are providing the best and most effective aid to those most impacted by the crisis. Giving it to governments is NOT recommended - they are not the best at delivering aid to those who need it. I would also be suspicious of organizations that spring up as a result of the crisis, organizations with no track record and no delivery system.
The international donor organizations have already committed to relief assistance in Sri Lanka and the other hard-hit countries. Organizations like CARE, Oxfam, Save the Children, Doctors without Borders and others have been doing excellent work in Sri Lanka and are poised to increase their efforts. I have been on the phone with Mercy Corps, an international organization headquartered here in Portland. They are sending relief teams in to assess the damage and orchestrate their response. (Mercy Corps was a major player in earthquake relief in Bam, Iran last year.)
I would like to recommend to you that you give money directly to Sarvodaya, the organization I have been working with for many years. As you may know, while the international donor organizations provide much-needed material assistance, they rely on organizations like Sarvodaya to actually distribute this aid to the people who need it. The list of organizations that rely on Sarvodaya's thousands of volunteers reads like a who's who of the development world. I have seen Sarvodaya workers distributing aid from UNICEF to poor villagers in a village that the Sri Lankan government didn't even know existed. And, most importantly, Sarvodaya delivers assistance in Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and Christian communities. (US government assistance will NOT aid those millions of Sri Lankan Tamils who reside in areas controlled by the Tamil Tigers. The US government forbids all contact with the Tamil Tigers, although they are a legally recognized organization in Sri Lanka. Sarvodaya's assistance is not restricted by the short-sighted politics of exclusivity.)
Another reason to give directly to Sarvodaya: of all the countries hit by the quake and tsunami, Sri Lanka is the most impacted. Countries like India and Thailand have significant internal resources to draw upon. Sri Lanka has virtually none. Giving to Sarvodaya ensures that the money will go where it is most needed.
So, how can you give to Sarvodaya? Send a check to: Sarvodaya USA, 5716 Manchester Avenue #3, Los Angeles, CA 90045. D.J. Mitchell, their accountant and a longtime friend of Sarvodaya, will wire funds to Sarvodaya every few days. Your contribution will be tax-deductible in 2005.
[For a dependable way to donate to recovery in India, consider AUROVILLE, an internationally famous intentional community there, from which comes the following message. -- Tom Atlee]
Pondicherry, Auroville and much of the Southeast Coromandel Coast on the Bay of Bengal was inundated by the recent tidal wave. The town of Pondicherry itself including the Sri Aurobindo Ashram is protected by a sea wall of rocks which took the brunt of the wave. Minor flooding and salt water forced back through sewers was the only initial damage report.
Auroville, however, has a number of beach communities which were hard hit and in some cases, wiped out.
The greatest tragedies came to the local fishermen and villages where many live in simple huts and cannot swim. We have set up tents and are feeding and sheltering hundreds of the orphaned and homeless until the Government of India and the Red Cross and UN step in. Auroville International USA has a website set up to receive donations via credit card. If you feel moved to help, please go to the following link
and specify under "Project Allocation":
"Village Flood" to help provide relief to local villagers.
"Beach Flood" to help rebuild the Auroville communities.
"General Flood" we will simply split half and half.
Checks payable to "AVIUSA" may also be sent to:
P.O. Box 1534
Lodi, CA 95241-1534
It helps to use the downloadable donation form from the website.
Thanks for your help in this time of crisis.
12 Tinker Street Woodstock, NY
Auroville International USA
How to Finance Tsunami Relief
Cut the US military budget, find missing / stolen Trillions
30 Dec 2004
Bush 'Undermining UN with Aid Coalition'
By Jamie Lyons, PA Political Correspondent
United States President George Bush was tonight accused of trying to undermine the United Nations by setting up a rival coalition to coordinate relief following the Asian tsunami disaster.
The president has announced that the US, Japan, India and Australia would coordinate the world’s response.
But former International Development Secretary Clare Short said that role should be left to the UN.
“I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to coordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN when it is the best system we have got and the one that needs building up,” she said.
“Only really the UN can do that job,” she told BBC Radio Four’s PM programme.
“It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers.”
Ms Short said the coalition countries did not have good records on responding to international disasters.
She said the US was “very bad at coordinating with anyone” and India had its own problems to deal with.
“I don’t know what that is about but it sounds very much, I am afraid, like the US trying to have a separate operation and not work with the rest of the world through the UN system,” she added.
Washington was aware that a deadly Tidal Wave was building up in the Indian Ocean
www.globalresearch.ca 29 December 2004
by Michel Chossudovsky
Why is the US military Calling the Shots on Humanitarian Relief Why in the wake of the disaster, is the US military (rather than civilian humanitarian/aid organizations operating under UN auspices) taking a lead role?
The US Pacific Command has been designated to coordinate the channeling of emergency relief? Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Rusty Blackman, commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force based in Okinawa, has been designated to lead the emergency relief program
Lieutenant General Blackman was previously Chief of Staff for Coalition Forces Land Component Command, responsible for leading the Marines into Baghdad during "Operation Iraqi Freedom."
Three "Marine disaster relief assessment teams" under Blackman's command have been sent to Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
US military aircraft are conducting observation missions.
In a bitter irony, part of this operation is being coordinated out of America's Naval base in Diego Garcia, which was not struck by the tidal wave. Meanwhile, "USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, which was in Hong Kong when the earthquake and tsunamis struck, has been diverted to the Gulf of Thailand to support recovery operations" (Press Conference of Pacific Command, http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2004/n12292004_2004122905.html ).
Two Aircraft Carriers have been sent to the region.
Why is it necessary for the US to mobilize so much military equipment? The pattern is unprecedented:
Conway said the Lincoln carrier strike group has 12 helicopters embarked that he said could be "extremely valuable" in recovery missions. An additional 25 helicopters are aboard USS Bonhomme Richard, headed to the Bay of Bengal. Conway said the expeditionary strike group was in Guam and is forgoing port visits in Guam and Singapore and expects to arrive in the Bay of Bengal by Jan. 7.
Conway said the strike group, with its seven ships, 2,100 Marines and 1,400 sailors aboard, also has four Cobra helicopters that will be instrumented in reconnaissance efforts.
Because fresh water is one of the greatest needs in the region, Fargo has ordered seven ships each capable of producing 90,000 gallons of fresh water a day to the region. Conway said five of these ships are pre-positioned in Guam and two will come from Diego Garcia. A field hospital ship pre-positioned in Guam would also be ordered to the region, depending on findings of the disaster relief assessment teams and need, Conway said. (Ibid)
Why has a senior commander involved in the invasion of Iraq been assigned to lead the US emergency relief program?
As a society, your average American would probably struggle to find Sumatra on a map, much less understand anything of their culture or the instability and brutality suffered by those who were further victimized by this natural disaster. Paper thin "outrage" over the lack of an adequate warning system overshadows things more prescient, like the lack of adequate medicine, food, and clean drinking water suffered by Indians and Indonesians every day of the year. Considering the amount of Western corporate investment in the region, it is strange that we never hear all that much about these issues without the help of Mother Nature (not).
So what do I expect of Americans? I expect them to care enough about the deaths of thousands to make a passing effort to cast aside their intense ethnocentrism.
What is most surprising about the "official" media reaction in America is the lack of scientific perspective that is being included in the news media. A rudimentary understanding of plate tectonics gained in your typical Geology I survey course is far more in depth than anything I've seen offered anywhere in the mass media.
I guess the corporate conservative news corporations do not want to endorse or introduce basic plate tectonics or continental drift into the mainstream of American thought. After all, it is a cornerstone of evolutionary theory. But maybe they didn't really consider that and there really was no ulterior motive. Maybe instead they think that the common American prefers to see a pseudo-scientific explanation of the causes of large scale natural disasters without all of that boring scientific accuracy.
three hours of warning, but not sent to warn people where 5 minutes would have saved thousands, possibly tens of thousands of lives. uncle scam is asleep at the wheel, but thinks he is best suited to run the world.
55,000 Dead: The Role of U.S. Criminal Negligence on a Global Scale
Casualties of a policy of war, negligence, and corporate greed
A Statement from the International Action Center
While earthquakes and tsunamis are natural disasters, the decision to spend billions of dollars on wars of conquest while ignoring simple measures that can save human lives is not.
At least 55,000 people were killed by the tsunami that devastated coastlines from Indonesia to Somalia. Almost a third of the dead are children. Thousands are still missing and millions are homeless in 11 countries. Hundreds of thousands have lost everything, and millions face a bleak future because of polluted drinking water, a lack of sanitation and no health services, according to UN undersecretary Jan Egeland, who is in charge of emergency relief coordination.
Egeland said, "We cannot fathom the cost of these poor societies and the nameless fishermen and fishing villages and so on that have just been wiped out. Hundreds of thousands of livelihoods have gone."
No money for early warning system
Much of this death and destruction could have been prevented with a simple and inexpensive system of buoys. Officials in Thailand and Indonesia have said that an immediate public warning could have saved lives, but that they could not know of the danger because there is no international system in place to track tsunamis in the Indian Ocean.
Such a system is not difficult or expensive to install. In fact, the detector buoys that monitor tsunamis have been available for decades and the U.S. has had a monitoring system in place for more than half a century. More than 50 seismometers are scattered across the Northwest to detect and measure earthquakes that might spawn tsunamis. In the middle of the Pacific are six buoys equipped with sensors called "tsunameters" that measure small changes in water pressure and programmed to automatically alert the country's two tsunami-warning centers in Hawaii and Alaska.
Dr. Eddie Bernard, director of the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, says just a few buoys could do the job. Scientists wanted to place two more tsunami meters in the Indian Ocean, including one near Indonesia, but the plan had not been funded, said Bernard. The tsunameters each cost only $250,000.
A mere half million dollars could have provided an early warning system that could have saved thousands of lives. This should be compared to the $1,500,000,000 the U.S. spends every day to fund the Pentagon war machine. This means that for what the U.S. is spending for less than one minute of bombing and destruction it could construct a system that could have prevented thousands of needless deaths. Lack of funding for an inexpensive, low-tech early warning system is simply criminal negligence.
Indian Minister of State for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal said, "If the country had such an alert system in place, we could have warned the coastal areas of the imminent danger and avoided the loss of life." But there is no room in the Bush budget for such life-saving measures; the U.S. government's priorities are corporate profit and endless war.
At a meeting of the UN Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in June, experts concluded that the "Indian Ocean has a significant threat from both local and distant tsunamis" and should have a warning network. But no action was agreed upon. Geologist Brian Atwater of the U.S. Geological Survey said, "Sumatra has an ample history of great earthquakes, which makes the lack of a tsunami warning system in the Indian Ocean all the more tragic. Everyone knew Sumatra was a loaded gun."
U.S. government failed to warn region
Although the local governments had no real warning, the U.S. government did, and it failed to pass along the information. Within minutes of the massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, U.S. scientists working with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suspected that a deadly wave was spreading through the Indian Ocean. They did not call anyone in the governments in the area. Jeff LaDouce, an official in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that they e-mailed Indonesian officials, but said that he wasn‚t aware what happened after they sent the e-mails.
In this day of instant communications, controlled in a large part by the U.S., it is possible to communicate within minutes to every part of the globe. It is beyond belief that the officials at the NOAA could not find any method to directly and immediately contact civilian authorities in the area. Their decision not to do so may have cost thousands of lives.
Even a few minutes warning would have given the inhabitants a chance to seek higher ground. The NOAA had several hours notice before the first waves hit shore. Tim Walsh, geologic-hazards program manager for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, said, "Fifty feet of elevation would be enough to escape the worst of the waves. In most places, 25 feet would be sufficient. If you go uphill or inland, the effect of the tsunami will be diminished." But the inhabitants of the area weren't given the warning - as a result, television and radio alerts were not issued in Thailand until nearly an hour after the waves had hit and thousands were already dead.
The failure to make any real effort to warn the people of the region, knowing that tens of thousands of lives were at stake, is part of a pattern of imperial contempt and racism that has become the cornerstone of U.S. policies worldwide.
The NOAA immediately warned the U.S. Naval Station at Diego Garcia, which suffered very little damage from the tsunami. It is telling that the NOAA was able to get the warning to the US Navy base in the area, but wouldn't pick up the phone and call the civil authorities in the region to warn them. They made sure that a US military base was notified and did almost nothing to issue a warning to the civilian inhabitants who were in the direct path of the wave--a warning that might have saved thousands of lives. This is criminal negligence.
Disease may kill tens of thousands more
The 55,000 deaths directly resulting from the tsunami are just the beginning of the tragedy. Disease could claim as many victims as have been killed in the weekend's earthquake-sparked tsunami, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Medical experts warn that malaria, cholera and dengue fever are expected to pose serious health threats to survivors in the area, where waves spoiled drinking-water supplies, polluted streets and homes with raw sewage, swept away medical clinics, ruined food stocks and left acres of stagnant ponds where malaria-carrying mosquitoes can breed.
"The biggest threat to survivors is from the spread of infection through contamination of drinking water and putrefying bodies left by the receding waters," said Jamie McGoldrick, a senior U.N. health official.
"Within a few days, we fear, there is going to be outbreaks of disease," Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla said. "Cholera is going to be a problem. This is going to be the most important thing in a few days."
The response of the U.S. government to this emergency is to offer a paltry $15 million "aid package." To put this in perspective, this is one tenth of one percent of what Washington has spent thus far on the war against the people of Iraq.
[note: under international pressure, the Bush regime increased this figure to about one third of a billion dollars, equivalent to a couple hours of military spending]
Money for human needs, not for war
The U.S. and British governments owe billions of dollars in reparations to the countries of this region and to all other formerly colonized countries. The poverty and lack of infrastructure that contribute to and exacerbate the scope of this disaster are the direct result of colonial rule and neo-colonial policies. Although economic and political policies cannot control the weather, they can determine how a nation is impacted by natural disasters.
We must hold the U.S. government accountable for their role in tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of deaths. We must demand that it stop spending $1.5 billion each day for war and occupation and instead provide health care for the victims of this tragedy, build an early warning system, and rebuild the homes and infrastructure destroyed by the tsunami.
for the International Action Center
Ecological Devastation and Coastal Overdevelopment Made Tsunami Damage Worse
Editor's Note | t r u t h o u t reporter J. Sri Raman lives in a fishing village
in Chennai, India, an area devastated by the tsunami. Below is his eyewitness
report on the suffering caused by Sunday's tragic event. - smg
Deaths by Water - and Environmental Degradation
By J. Sri Raman
t r u t h o u t | Report
Monday 27 December 2004
Chennai, India - Selvaraj, 38, sturdy and ebony-dark, set out on the catamaran, the ancient Tamil raft of tied logs, a little past six in the morning. He did not return. Some eight hours later, rescuers found his body washed ashore, like the bodies of scores of other fishermen.
Kannan, 14, went out a little later that Sunday morning to the Marina Beach, the pride of this South Indian city, its little piece of paradise. He carried his cricket bat, with a sticker of Sachin Tendulkar, the star of the game, on it. He, too, did not return home. His frail, little body was also found hours later on the once inviting sands. Search was still on, though, for the bodies of the other members of his team and their opponents who were to play a weekend match on a field with a backdrop of waves.
Krishnamurthy, 67, had driven there for a brisk morning walk along the long beach line, as had been his wont for a couple of years. They found his car, smashed and upturned.
Survivors in the fishermen's hamlets close to the Marina count Selvaraj and others like him lucky indeed. Even the bodies of many, many other fishermen, who had gone into the sea for their morning catch, have not been found. Officials put the number of missing fishermen at no less than 5,000.
The best-known public hospital in this capital of the south Indian State of Tamilnadu, one of the worst-hit areas in the widespread Asian tragedy of December 26, has lined up scores of salt-smeared bodies for possible identification by their bereaved kin. Quite a few are still lying unclaimed - an indication that killer waves may have devoured whole families on the fringe of the city and survival.
People, especially the poor, are prepared for the worst - but the worst they can imagine. Down here, they were not prepared for this particular disaster, wrought by quake-generated waves (tsunamis, their Japanese name a household word here already) rising to a tidal height of 15 to 40 feet before crashing to kill. They were not prepared, and not only because they had fished only in a gentle sea and played or walked only on soft sands.
True, the balmy Bay of Bengal had held no terrors for them before. There is a more basic reason, however, why the tremors and the resultant sea turbulence (claiming a toll of over 2,500 human lives) have taken Chennai and Tamilnadu totally unawares. The public here has been kept in the dark about a dire environmental threat that has been growing at a great pace over the past decade or so.
What holds good for Tamilnadu does so as well for the rest of coastal India to reel from the impact of the calamity - the States of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, and West Bengal.
In the wake of the tragedy, Tamilnadu is witnessing a series of helicopter surveys of the misery in cities, towns and marooned villages by ministers. The opposition and the ruling party are raking up disaster-related issues to fight over. Funds for relief operations can also become an issue between the State and federal governments in the coming days. Official statements and steps reveal no recognition of the role of environmental degradation in the making of the disaster.
The calamity highlights, more than anything else, the callous neglect of environment protection along the entire coastal belt of India, including Tamilnadu. A handful of environmental activists have been crying themselves hoarse over the issue, but the powers-that-be have preferred to dismiss them as cranks. At the core of the issue lies a corporate-political mesh of corruption that seeks to thrive on human misery and lives.
India, by law, has a coastal regulation zone (CRZ), where building activities are supposed to be strictly regulated. In Tamilnadu and elsewhere, as old lawyers would put it, the rules and regulations have been observed more in breach than in observance. The rapacious rich, callous corporates, and a state flush with the 'free market' spirit have indulged in impermissible real-estate activities in the allegedly protected zone.
A concrete chain of residential colonies, star hotels and entertainment spots has robbed the land of all coastal protection from the once friendly sea. It is mainly the poor who have paid - with their lives - for this crime against the coastline.
When the dead have been cremated or buried, it will be time to tell the people that environmentalism is not elitism, as self-serving seekers of political power have taught them. At stake in the protection of India's coastal environment are the lives of not merely Olive Ridly turtles but the millions to whom it is not a money-spinning means.
A freelance journalist and a peace activist of India, J. Sri Raman is the author of "Flashpoint" (Common Courage Press, USA). He is a regular contributor to t r u t h o u t.
Tsunamis and a Nuclear Threat in the South of India
By J. Sri Raman
t r u t h o u t | Report
Sunday 02 January 2005
Chennai, India - This coastal city in south India has just survived a double peril - the tsunami disaster and a nuclear threat.
The waves of tidal height, which hit Chennai last Sunday, did not stop with destroying fishermen's hamlets and flooding out thousands of other homes and lives. The tsunamis also inundated a part of the nuclear plant located in the city outskirts and close to the sea.
We have to wait for a full report on the damage. And, we may only wait in vain for an official report of this description. It needs no further investigation, however, to see that the Kalpakkam nuclear complex and the tsunami made a deadly combination indeed.
The nuclear part of the combination ruled out a full report for now, for two reasons. No one, in the first place, can easily dent the disaster-proof secrecy that surrounds any nuclear plant. The second and more important reason lies in the threat of radioactive leaks. Camera crews cannot capture these as easily as carcasses and debris floating in furious waters.
There can be slower nuclear horrors than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Environmentalists have, for about two decades, talked of Kalpakkam as a disaster of this less dramatic kind. The tsunamis may well have made the situation worse.
The incompletely and almost instantaneously post-tsunami official report peremptorily ruled out any damage to the complex. Even more emphatically, it denied any radioactive leak. Even the official report, however, acknowledged the havoc in the entire Kalpakkam area, habitat of a sizeable fishing community, housing the employees of the nuclear complex as well. On the morrow of the disaster, at least 60 lives were reported lost in the employees' township and some 250 in the rest of the area. The toll, unofficially much higher, has kept mounting since then.
No official concern was voiced over the complex at all. The complex comprises: two pressurized heavy water reactors and a test reactor, a reprocessing plant and an under-construction prototype fast breeder reactor or PFBR ("dedicated to the nation" by the Prime Minister in late October). The authorities claimed that, while one of the heavy water reactors had been closed for "re-tubing" before the tsunamis, the other was shut down the moment the an inordinate amount of water from the sea was detected entering the pump-house for the coolant unit. (The second reactor was re-started seven days later, this Sunday.)
Not a word, significantly, has been said in this connection about the reprocessing plant and its central waste management facility, in particular, besides the test reactor. No reassurance, in other words, has been forthcoming about the most crucially radioactivity-linked components of the complex. India's nuclear establishment is not known for innocent or accidental omissions in statements of this kind.
The authorities could not have concealed the deaths of employees in the Sunday disaster. The complex has lost scores of scientific and technical personnel, ranging from a design engineer of the test reactor washed away while praying in a church mass, to others carried away by monster waves from within the about 500 houses destroyed in the sprawling township. What, however, of the humble woman worker who, many say, met her watery end inside the complex? What of the two male workers, posted at the waste discharge point at the seafront jetty, who are reported missing?
The Doctors for Safe Environment, a forum of physicians that is asking these questions, has been raising larger posers about Kalpakkam and its location for years. V. Pugazhendhi of the forum, who has carried out painstaking health research in Kalpakkam and around, explains why radioactive leaks here do not belong to the realm of fantasy.
According to a survey under his guidance, the incidence of multiple cancers of blood and bone worked out to three per population of 25,000 in the age group of 15 to 50 for seven months from May to October 2003 in the Kalpakkam area. Set this against the normal figure of 1.7 per population of 100,000 in the same age group for a year, he suggests, and you see the result of radioactive pollution.
R. Ramesh of the same forum points to yet another peril in the making. He says that "land subsidence" in coastal areas should be expected as an inevitable consequence of tsunamis – and underscores the fact that the fast breeder reactor's site is just three to 5.6 meters above the sea level. You don't fantasize, if you fear the flattening of the entire reaction by tsunamis of five to 12 meters, with nuclear consequences of a nightmarish kind.
Objections to the construction of the fast breeder reactor have been raised before. The opponents of the plan, originally, argued that the plan violated the law of 1991 against such environment-unfriendly constructions in the terrain defined as the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ). The official reaction was an outrage. It consisted in amending the law to exempt nuclear plants from its purview. Kalpakkam is only one of the many nuclear installations to endanger India's coastal environment.
King Canute of England and Denmark, says the legend, could not stop the waves. The rulers of India can at least stop tsunamis from wreaking nuclear havoc.
A freelance journalist and a peace activist of India, J. Sri Raman is the author of Flashpoint (Common Courage Press, USA). He is a regular contributor to t r u t h o u t.
Published on Saturday, January 1, 2005 by the Inter Press Service
Tsunami a Reminder of Risks that Plague Coastal Nuke Plants
by Ranjit Devraj
NEW DELHI - Tsunamis and other natural disasters are posing a bigger challenge than pesky green activists to India's secretive nuclear power and research facilities on the coast of southern Tamil Nadu state, which accounted for 5,000 of the more than 50,000 deaths from this week's quakes and killer waves in Asia.
The worst casualties among the tens of thousands who died around the shores of countries around the Bay of Bengal have been in Sri Lanka, which is separated from Tamil Nadu by the narrow Palk Straits and where government sources now say as many as 25,000 people may have perished.
Authorities at India's secretive Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) have been quick to assert that the atomic facilities at Kalpakkam, 80 kilometers from Chennai, the state capital, were safe. On Tuesday, they allowed a group of journalists to inspect the installations to dispel widespread fears of radiation leakage.
On Monday night, the plant's director S K Jain said the plant had been shut down following flooding of the pump house that controls the flow of sea water used to cool the power plant. He added that a perimeter wall around a controversial Fast Breeder Reactor (FRB) being built at the site had collapsed.
Although the Kalpakkam facility escaped major damage, the fact that 30 inmates of the plant's residential complex nearby died and that several of them were technical personnel or atomic scientists was proof enough that planners never seriously considered the possibility of a tsunami striking the Tamil Nadu coast.
The residential complex has now been evacuated of its 1,500 families. No one is venturing to say when the 440-megawatt atomic power plant will be functional again or when work can resume on the controversial fast breeder reactor.
A bigger Russian-aided nuclear power complex that uses sea water for cooling is coming up fast at Koodankulam, 900 km south of Chennai and close to Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula that was severely devastated by the tsunami that in some places reached 10 meters high.
Long before the tsunami struck, the secret workings of the Kalpakkam and Koodankulam facilities have been the subject of protests by local citizens and groups opposed to nuclear power -- most notably the People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy and South Asians Against Nukes (SAAN), an informal information platform for activists and scholars concerned about the nuclearization of South Asia.
The DAE has justified the allegations of the green activists by extending secrecy to serious radiation leaks that have endangered public safety in the recent past.
In March 1999 when there was a leak of heavy water at Kalpakkam, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), another wing of Indian nukedom, dismissed the incident by saying that ”the release to the environment is maintained well within the limits specified by the AERB.”
Another leak that affected workers at the Kalpakkam Reprocessing Plant in January 2003 was met with complete silence, but after persistent media reports and pressure from eminent scientists and public persons the DAE acknowledged the accident six months after the event.
Some of the installations at Kalpakkam are outside the reach of even the AERB or indeed any authority because they carry a strategic tag. These include the controversial fast breeder reactor (FBR) which involves the handling of large amounts of plutonium which can be used in nuclear warheads.
''The DAE must adopt an enlightened policy of keeping the public informed at all times about safety aspects of its installations,'' said M R Sreenivasan, one of India's leading nuclear scientists and former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, commenting on the Kalpakkam leaks and attempts to hide them.
The PMANE has mounted protests and seminars - including at the World Social Forum (WSF) in Mumbai in January 2004 - against fast breeder reactors which according to its convener S P Udayakumar is ''being promoted in this country by a dangerous combination of career-minded scientists and facilitated by secrecy laws that shroud the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE)”.
FBRs have been built and operated in the United States, France and Japan but were phased out for a variety of reasons, but most especially because of accidents, such as the one at Monju in Japan in 1995 and the European reactor Super Phenix in France in 1987.
Germany built an experimental FBR reactor at Kalkar in 1991, but never put it into operation because of safety concerns. FBRs use liquid sodium coolant, but the metal reacts explosively when it comes into touch with water, as what happened at Monju.
Risky as the FBR project is, the PMANE and other anti-nuclear groups have been concentrating their energies on the bigger coastal project at Koodankulam, which is being built at a cost of five billion U.S. dollars although the area is known to seismically active.
''We have been trying to assert our right to know the impacts of this anti-people project on us and our children's health, safety and the environment but even elected civil and political societies are being kept in the dark by the DAE,'' said Udayakumar.
The DAE is intent on producing 4,000 megawatts of power at Koodankulam using four Russian reactors.
Two of these have already been supplied under an agreement signed in 1988, while the Soviet Union was still in existence and despite opposition from the U.S. government and from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) - also called the London Group because it first met in London in 1975 as a reaction to India exploding a nuclear device in the previous year.
Since 2002, the Russians have developed cold feet over the project, the actual site of which was shifted by the DAE without consulting them. Earlier, possibly under pressure from the NSG, Moscow announced its inability to supply two more reactors that were to make a complement of four reactors at the Koodankulam atomic energy plant.
Meanwhile, local bodies and religious groups have been regularly recording protests against the Koodankulam project.
The latest of these was on Oct. 30, when Amritajnana Tapaswini, the head of the well-regarded Santhigiri Ashram that maintains an ayurvedic and spiritual center, nearby insisted on leading a delegation into the high-security site to meet S K Agrawal, the project director, and warn him of possible dangers.
''You may be building this project at great cost in the name of humanity and using high technology, but it is well to remember that there are far higher forces in the world that you do not understand,'' she warned Agrawal.
Her remarks are now being seen as a premonition of the Dec. 26 tsunami that Indian scientists had been convinced would never strike the coasts of Tamil Nadu. (END)
© Copyright 2005 IPS - Inter Press Service
ANIMALS SEEM TO HAVE FORESEEN TSUNAMI
ORGANIC CONSUMERS - According to National Geographic, there have been a significant number of reports documenting animals who seemed to sense the recent Asian tsunami before it hit. For example, Sri Lanka's Yala National Park suffered many human casualties, but park managers said the wildlife suffered almost no casualties. "The elephants, wild boar, deer, monkeys and others had moved inland to avoid the killer waves." In Thailand, seemingly insane elephants broke their chains and fled inland before the waves hit. Authorities in India reported that "the indigenous, stone-age tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar islands escaped the effects of the tsunami because they heeded warning signals from birds and animals." A number of scientists have pointed out that this remarkable behavior should alert us to pay closer attention to a wide range of warnings from the animal kingdom, not only in regards to natural disasters, but also in relation to danger signs of the impact on animal and human health of environmental pollution, such as the recent outbreak of frog mutations, species extinctions, and drops in mammalian fertility.
Human activities contributed to tsunami's ravages: environmental expert
Mon Dec 27,11:03 AM ET
Science - Agence France Press
PARIS (AFP) - Human activities, notably the building of coastal resorts and the destruction of natural protection, contributed to the enormous loss of life from killer tidal waves that hit the shores of the Indian Ocean after an earthquake, an environmental expert said.
Jeff McNeely, chief scientist of the Swiss-based World Conservation Union (IUCN), who lived for several years in Indonesia and Thailand, two of the countries hit by Sunday's disaster, said it was "nothing new for nature" in a geologically active region.
"What has made this a disaster is that people have started to occupy part of the landscape that they shouldn't have occupied," he told AFP in a telephone interview from Paris. "Fifty years ago the coastline was not densely occupied as now by tourist hotels."
The hotels did not replace traditional villages because the villagers built inland, McNeely said.
"What has also happened over the last several decades is that many mangroves have been cleared to grow shrimp ponds so that we, here in Europe, can have cheap shrimp," he added.
"The mangroves were all along the coasts where there are shallow waters. They offered protection against things like tsunamis. Over the last 20-30 years, "they were cleared by people who didn't have the long-term knowledge of why these mangroves should have been saved, by outsiders who get concessions from the governments and set up shrimp or prawn farms."
The shrimps and prawns are sold to Europeans and other foreigners "at a price that does not include the environmental cost which is being paid today," McNeely said.
The same thing has been happening with the coral reefs that also provided protection to the coast, he explained.
"When a tsunami comes in, it first hits the coral reef which slows it down, then it hits the mangroves which furthers slow it down. It may get through that but by then a lot of the energy has already been dissipated."
Conservationists in India and Srilanka and Thailand had warned that mangroves had tremendous value for conservation and to protect the coastline, McNeely said.
On the other hand, Sunday's quake would not have been a disaster for local wildlife still left in the affected areas, he added.
"Those living along the coast are seldom particularly rare, that's not a rare habitat, the mangroves are not particularly rich in species, the species that live there are used to typhoons, to storms and all that.
"Animals are smart enough to move."
More than 23,000 people were killed in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar and Thailand as a result of the massive quake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Many victims were European and other holidaymakers swept away when the waves hit beach resorts.
But the bulk of the dead were residents of coastal towns inundated by waves more than 10 metres high and fishermen living in flimsy housing along the shores of the Indian Ocean.
'Mangroves Can Act as Shield Against Tsunami'
By G. Venkataramani
Monday 27 December 2004
"Tsunami is a rare phenomenon. Though we cannot prevent the occurrence of such natural calamities, we should certainly prepare ourselves to mitigate the impact of the natural fury on the population inhabiting the coastal ecosystems. Our anticipatory research work to preserve mangrove ecosystems as the first line of defence against devastating tidal waves on the eastern coastline has proved very relevant today.
The dense mangrove forests stood like a wall to save coastal communities living behind them," said M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Chennai.
The mangroves in Pitchavaram and Muthupet region acted like a shield and bore the brunt of the tsunami.
The impact was mitigated and lives and property of the communities inhabiting the region were saved.
"When we started the foundation 14 years ago, we initiated the anticipatory research programme - a two-pronged strategy - to meet the eventualities of sea level rise due to global warming. One is to conserve and regenerate coastal mangroves along the eastern coast of the country, and the second is transfer of salt-tolerant genes from the mangroves to selected crops grown in the coastal regions.
It is now found that wherever the mangroves have been regenerated, especially in the Orissa coast, the damage due to tsunami is minimal," he said.
The MSSRF will soon be publishing a scientific document `Tsunami and mangroves' highlighting the need to conserve and rehabilitate mangroves as the frontline defence against tidal forces.
The foundation will also prescribe multiple and multi-level livelihood options for the communities inhabiting the mangrove ecosystem.
Alternative cropping patterns to provide household economic and nutrition security for the rural poor will also be developed, according to Prof. Swaminathan.
The foundation will also press into service public address systems and communication network with village knowledge centres to forewarn the coastal population.
All efforts will be made to further strengthen the knowledge centres and information dissemination strategies.
A core group of experts has been set up to prepare concrete action plans and coordinate the short-term and long-term relief measures for the affected communities in the coastal belts.
A voluntary relief fund is created, and it will be used to meet the immediate needs of the affected communities, according to Prof. Swaminathan.
The foundation held a condolence meeting for those who lost their lives due to the tsunami and resolved to help mitigate the sufferings.
from the April 05, 2001 edition
- "Inside Passage" By Richard Manning Island Press 210 pp., $24.95
Manning recounts how poor farmers and fishermen in Thailand are destroying natural mangrove forests on the coastline to create shrimp farms to feed the West's growing appetite for frozen seafood. Unfortunately, the mangroves shelter the natural food base for shrimp, so now Thai fishermen are stripping the area of native fish to feed their crop.
It's another sobering lose-lose environmental story, except that Manning finds a ray of hope: One Thai village he visits has restored its mangroves and now harvests sustainable levels of shrimp and crab.
And ultimately that is Manning's powerful message: We can reintegrate ourselves with the natural world and reap its tremendous bounty if we stop trying to simplify it.
Peace and Environment News * October 1998
Commercial shrimp aquaculture is the latest cash crop phenomenon that has taken
the world by storm. Driven by North American and European demand, shrimp farming
is now active in over 50 countries worldwide, from Thailand to Honduras. Backed
by powerful economic and political interests, it has attracted the short term
attention of investors and those who want to get rich quick. In countries like
Ecuador, locals say there are two ways to get rich: one is cocaine; the other
Seeing it as a relatively quick and inexpensive way to generate export dollars, international financial institutions have supported and encouraged shrimp aquaculture. Unfortunately, the shrimp ponds have had unintended impacts on previously viable local economic activity. Coastal mangrove forests are rapidly being clearcut for the construction of shrimp ponds.
Mangrove forests are specifically adapted to shoreline conditions. Not only can their roots filter salt water, but their specialized system of stilt-like roots protects coastlines from storms, prevents erosion and the deposition of sediment onto nearby coral reefs and controls outflow patterns of freshwater into the sea.
Mangrove forests also provide protection against tidal waves, aeolian salts, flooding and cyclones. According to the World Wildlife Fund, thousands of people were killed in 1991 by a tidal wave in Bangladesh, in an area where shrimp ponds had replaced mangroves. In 1960, a tidal wave of similar force had passed without loss of life due to the protection offered by the mangroves. Since weather disasters are increasingly likely due to climate change, the loss of mangroves poses an even greater concern.
Half of the world's mangrove forests have already disappeared, and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization conservatively estimates that over half of that loss is due to shrimp aquaculture. The loss to biodiversity is also extensive. Mangroves provide habitat for an enormous variety of life. Many endangered species, including the Olive Ridley turtle, proboscis monkey, and the white-breasted sea eagle, rely on the mangrove forests for some part of their lifecycles.
Local people rely on mangroves to provide their basic needs: food, shelter, medicines and fuel. Because mangroves are nurseries for marine life, removing them wipes out the fishery. Local sustainable agriculture is also compromised, as severe salinization turns farmland into wasteland as well as contaminating drinking water.
Shrimp farms have displaced thousands of local people. Dr. Vandana Shiva, a prominent researcher from India, estimates that for every shrimp farm, 15 harvesting jobs are created, 50 security jobs are created, and 50,000 people are displaced through the loss of their land, traditional fishery and agriculture. Most shrimp farms are short-term ventures, becoming unproductive and collapsing in only five to ten years.
Oxfam's Free Trade advice is flawed
by Vandana Shiva May 14, 2002
.... In the case of shrimp exports, every Rupee of export earnings has generated more than five rupees of ecological destruction of water, biodiversity, agriculture and fisheries. Industrial shrimp farming destroys 200 times more area than the actual size of ponds through salinisation of ground water, pollution of coastal waters, destruction of agriculture and mangroves. For every job created, fifteen livelihoods are destroyed. More food production is destroyed through destruction of domestic agriculture and fisheries than can be purchased by the export earnings from industrially farmed shrimp. Further, export earnings go to rich industrial houses, and the price of destruction is paid by poor peasants and artisanal fisherman.
Asian Tsunami Hails Ecological Collapse
Rising seas, coastal development, over-population and loss of mangroves and coral reefs make such natural disasters more likely and deadly
Earth Meanders, www.environmentalsustainability.info
By Dr. Glen Barry
November 28, 2004
Asia's recent utterly tragic tsunami was caused by a natural earthquake, but worsened by human activities. The reactionary anti-Earth right has been quoted several times in recent days as saying it was only a matter of time until environmentalists blamed the catastrophe on global warming and other environmental causes. Well here goes...
There is nothing new in tidal waves and storm surges hitting coastlines. This has shaped and molded both coastal geography and plant communities forever. This is why traditional peoples rarely lived right on the beach, preferring to reside back a bit. This tidal wave was so damaging because of commercial coastal development, Asia's perilous over-population, and destruction of protective coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs (by over-harvest, climate caused bleaching, and dynamite fishing) and mangroves (particularly for shrimp farming).
The Asian Tsunami is indicative of the types of problems that global warming can and will exacerbate. It is known conclusively that climate change is raising sea levels, at least 10-20 cm over the past century, and it is expected this century's increases will be even greater. There is no doubt that all else equal, higher sea levels would contribute to greater damage from such waves. Simply - if you stand up quickly in a full bathtub, it is more likely to overflow than if half full.
Rising sea levels - in the absence of protective coral reefs and mangroves, and presence of recent human coastal developments - guarantee that any tidal wave will prove maximally destructive. As Jeff McNeely, chief scientist of the Swiss-based World Conservation Union (IUCN), explains: "When a tsunami comes in, it first hits the coral reef which slows it down, then it hits the mangroves which further slows it down. It may get through that but by then a lot of the energy has already been dissipated."
This tidal wave is the most recent "natural disaster" indicative of ecological collapse commencing on a planetary scale, first exhibiting itself particularly hard in Asia. This is because Asia is unrivaled in terms of intensive land alterations and ecological destruction over millennia. This is anything but an aberration, as deadly flooding and droughts have become routine in deforested areas of the Philippines, Indonesia and China.
Simply, Asia's current population can not be sustained given current natural capital and spiraling climate change. Asian ecosystems have overshot their carrying capacity, and we are witnessing what happens when humans live without regard to ecology. Lasting social recovery and ecological sustainability throughout Tsunami impacted coastal Asia will depend upon restoring mangroves, coral reefs and other natural coastal ecosystems, while restricting coastal development.
More systematically - in Asia, and indeed globally - failure to address climate change, deforestation and over-population means massive man-abetted natural disasters will increasingly become the norm. This observation is made with utmost respect and concern for current and future victims of ecocide. Humanity has long abused the Earth - and we continue to do so at great risk. The Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth. As goes the Earth will go humanity.
** Earth Meanders is a series of personal essays regarding environmental sustainability and related matters. Opinions expressed are those of the author. An archive of past writings can be found at: http://earthmeanders.blogspot.com
Climate Change and Permanent Sea Level Rise
The tsunami's impacts on heavily populated coastal areas, and upon very low lying areas such as the Maldives Islands, are an indicator of what can be expected from permanent sea level rise of a few feet over the next few decades caused by fossil fuel combustion and deforestation. Many of the lowest elevation areas hit by the tsunami will become ocean, and those still above the tides will become ever more vulnerable to storm surges, making their future viability as living areas for humans less viable.
Global Warming, Pollution Add to Coastal Threats
By Alister Doyle
Tuesday 28 December 2004
Oslo - A creeping rise in sea levels tied to global warming, pollution and damage to coral reefs may make coastlines even more vulnerable to disasters like tsunamis or storms in future, experts said on Monday.
Few coastal ecosystems are robust enough to withstand freak waves like the ones that slammed into Asian nations from Sri Lanka to Thailand on Sunday, killing more than 22,000 people, after a subsea earthquake off Indonesia.
But global warming, poorly planned coastal development and other threats over which humans have some control are weakening natural defences ranging from mangrove swamps to coral reefs that help keep the oceans at bay.
"Coasts are under threat in many countries," said Brad Smith at environmental group Greenpeace. "Development of roads, shrimp farms, ribbon development along coasts and tourism are eroding natural defences in Asia."
Scientists say a build-up of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere from human burning of fossil fuels threatens to trigger more powerful storms and raise sea levels, exposing coasts to more erosion.
Leaders of small island states will meet in Mauritius on Jan. 10-14 to debate threats such as global warming.
World sea levels rose on average by 10-20 cm (4 to 8 inches) during the 20th century and an additional rise of 9-88 cm is expected by the year 2100, according to latest report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2001.
Island nations like the Maldives, swamped by the tsunami, could literally disappear beneath the waves if seas rise. And in Bangladesh, 17 million people live less than one metre above sea level, as do many in Florida in the United States.
Richard Klein, a senior Researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said vulnerability to natural disasters often went hand in hand with poverty.
"Vulnerability has as much a social dimension as an environmental one," he said. The Netherlands could afford to build higher dykes to defend against the seas, for instance, but developing states could not.
He suggested better early warning systems for everything from cyclones to tsunamis in the Third World.
"And one of the first risks for small islands is not that they will be submerged (by rising sea levels) but there will be no fresh water," he said. Salt water would poison reservoirs of rainwater and purification equipment would be too costly.
Smith at Greenpeace said damage to coral reefs was also making coasts more vulnerable to battering by the sea.
An international report early this month showed that about 70 percent of the world's coral reefs had been ruined or were under threat from human activities, ranging from over-fishing to coastal pollution and global warming.
"Corals form a storm barrier and if they die many islands will be more vulnerable to cyclones," he said.
Mega-tsunami: Wave of Destruction
BBC Two 9.30pm 12 October 2000
Revisited: BBC Four 7pm 24 May 2003
Scattered across the world’s oceans are a handful of rare geological time-bombs. Once unleashed they create an extraordinary phenomenon, a gigantic tidal wave, far bigger than any normal tsunami, able to cross oceans and ravage countries on the other side of the world. Only recently have scientists realised the next episode is likely to begin at the Canary Islands, off North Africa, where a wall of water will one day be created which will race across the entire Atlantic ocean at the speed of a jet airliner to devastate the east coast of the United States. America will have been struck by a mega-tsunami.
The Megatsunami: Possible Modern Threat
By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
posted: 14 December 2004
09:49 am ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- Volcanic landslides that generate huge and devastating tsunamis tend to occur during historically warmer times on Earth, a new study suggests. Scientists don't know exactly why, but since the global climate is warming as you read this, the apparent connection was tossed out this week as a reason for scientists to be concerned about the threat now.
Tsunamis are waves that race across the ocean without much fanfare but grow to frightening proportions when they reach land. The waves are deep, and while they may appear just a few inches or feet tall on the open ocean, they can soar to the height of a multi-story building as they are forced upward near the shore.
A tsunami can be generated by the sudden uplift of the seafloor in an earthquake, or by the paddle-like effect of a landslide crashing into the sea from, say, an island volcano. Yet while quake-generated tsunamis have been observed from their genesis to the disastrous end, scientists have never witnessed a significant open-ocean tsunami generated by a landslide.
Evidence exists at various locations around the world for megatsunamis, as scientists call the largest of these events. They seem to occur every 100,000 years or so, said Gary McMurtry of the University of Hawaii.
These monsters can be hundreds of feet tall and, depending on local topography, race miles inland. ....
Scientists agree that submarine landslides caused by the collapse of island volcanoes -- think of the destruction of Mount St. Helens -- could generate these megatsunamis. Evidence for such landslides can be found in topography scans of seafloors around various island volcanoes, McMurtry points out.
Catch the Wave: Asteroid-driven Tsunami in U.S. Eastern Seaboard's Future
By Tariq Malik
posted: 07:00 am ET
02 June 2003
A giant, 40 stories tall wave could one day drench the eastern United States, the result of an asteroid-driven tsunami. However seaside dwellers need not move just yet, the asteroid isn't due for another eight centuries.
Researchers in California have developed a computer simulation depicting the ocean impact of the asteroid 1950 DA, a half-mile wide (1.1-kilometer) space rock that swings uncomfortably close to Earth in 2880. Although the probability of such an impact is remote to say the least -- astronomers estimate it to be somewhere around 0.3 percent -- the computer model does give researchers insight into the destructive power of tsunamis caused by near-earth objects.
Tsunami Society says megatsunami threat is not true
by George Curtis
Most recently, the Discovery Channel has replayed a program alleging potential destruction of coastal areas of the Atlantic by tsunami waves which might be generated in the near future by a volcanic collapse in the Canary Islands. Other reports have involved a smaller but similar catastrophe from Kilauea volcano on the island of Hawai`i. They like to call these occurrences "mega tsunamis". We would like to halt the scaremongering from these unfounded reports. We wish to provide the media with factual information so that the public can be properly informed about actual hazards of tsunamis and their mitigation.
The mission of the Tsunami Society includes "the dissemination of knowledge about tsunamis to scientists, officials, and the public". We have established a committee of private, university, and government scientists to accomplish part of this goal by correcting misleading or invalid information released to public about this hazard. We can supply both valid, correct and important information and advice to the public, and the names of reputable scientists active in the field of tsunamis, who can provide such information.
Here are a set of facts, agreed on by committee members, about the claims in these reports:
- while the active volcano of Cumbre Vieja on Las Palma is expected to erupt again, it will not send a large part of the island into the ocean, though small landslides may occur. The program does not bring out in the interviews that such volcanic collapses are extremely rare events, separated in geologic time by thousands or even millions of years.
- no such event a mega tsunami has occurred in either the Atlantic or Pacific oceans in recorded history. None.
- the colossal collapses of Krakatau or Santorin (the two most similar known happenings) generated catastrophic waves in the immediate area but hazardous waves did not propagate to distant shores. Carefully performed numerical and experimental model experiments on such events, and of the postulated Las Palma event verify that the relatively short waves from these small, though intense, occurrences do not travel as do waves from a major earthquake.
- the U.S. volcano observatory, situated on Kilauea, near the current eruption, states that there is no likelihood of that part of the island breaking off into the ocean.
- these considerations have been published in journals and discussed at conferences sponsored by the Tsunami Society.
Some papers on this subject include:
"Evaluation of the threat of Mega Tsunami Generation From ....Volcanoes on La Palma... and Hawaii", George Pararas-Carayannis, in Science of Tsunami Hazards, Vol 20, No.5, 2002.
"Modeling the La Palma Landslide Tsunami", Charles L. Mader, in Science of Tsunami Hazards, Vol. 19, No. 3, 2001.
"Volcano Growth and the Evolution of the Island of Hawaii", J.G. Moore and D.A.Clague, in the Geologic Society of America Bulletin, 104, 1992.
Committee members for this project report include:
Mr. George Curtis, Hilo HI (committee chairman) 808-963-6670
Dr. Tad Murty, Ottawa, Canada, 613-731-8900
Dr. Laura Kong, Honolulu, HI, 808-532-6422
Dr. George Pararas-Caryannis, Honolulu, 808-943-1150
Dr. Charles L. Mader, Los Alamos, NM and Honolulu HI, 808-396-9855
For more scientific information on tsunamis, visit: www.sthjournal.org/media.htm
For all papers published by the Tsunami Society, see: epubs.lanl.gov/tsunami
The Great Flood sent by God or gods to destroy civilization is a widespread but not universal theme in myth. The stories of Noah and his ark in Genesis, Matsya in the Puranas scriptures of Hinduism, and Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh are among the most familiar versions of these myths. A large percentage of the world's cultures past and present have stories of a "great flood" that had devastated earlier civilization.
Science of Tsunamis
Date published: Tuesday, December 28, 2004.
Tas. quake 'the trigger'
SYDNEY An undersea earthquake that unleashed a series of devastating tsunamis across southern Asia was set in motion by another quake off the coast of Tasmania last week, a seismologist said yesterday.
At least 12,600 people are believed to have been killed as a result of Sunday's earthquake and tsunami waves which swamped the coasts of Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and the Maldives, and measured 9.0 on the Richter scale.
The quake's precursor was a smaller but "very large" undersea quake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale which hit about 900km south-east of the Tasmanian coast at 1.59a.m. on Thursday, the seismologist said.
While it caused no damage and was barely felt by anyone in Australia, Geoscience Australia duty seismologist Dr Cvetan Sinadinovski said the Tasmanian quake set the scene for a much larger tectonic disturbance.
"It could be assumed that the earthquake on one side (of the Indo-Australian plate) caused an unbalanced situation on the other one which eventuated into this huge earthquake," Dr Sinadinovski said.
The magnitude of Sunday's earthquake was unexpected.
"From a scientific point of view it was not uncommon to have another earthquake of this size. But the magnitude of this second earthquake was not to be predicted because it could have been released through many smaller-sized earthquakes ... it was unexpectedly large.
"It was close to 10,000 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb.
"Sunday's event was a very long accumulation of massive energy over many years.
"I would like to say we have exhausted the energy but statistics show there will be more ... 95p.c. of earthquakes happen in the collision zone."
Sunday's quake came exactly one year after an earthquake, measuring 6.9, hit Bam, killing more than 30,000 Iranians.
US Geological Survey doesn't think there's a connection
Question: This earthquake occurred within three days of a magnitude 8.1 earthquake
in the Macquarie Islands. Is there any relation between the two earthquakes?
Answer: The occurrence of two great earthquakes within such a short space of time is indeed striking. However, even in retrospect, we do not yet see evidence for a strong causal relationship between the two earthquakes.
It seems clear that long-term stress changes associated with one earthquake may trigger other earthquakes on the same fault or on nearby faults. In fact, the aftershocks that occur around the source of a large earthquake are triggered by such stress changes. But the long-term stress changes caused by an earthquake decrease rapidly with distance away from the earthquake source. The Macquarie Ridge earthquake was very far from the site of the yet-to-occur Sumatra-Andaman Islands earthquake, and occurred on a different plate boundary. The hypothesis that long-term stress changes associated with the Macquarie Ridge earthquake triggered the Sumatra-Andaman Islands earthquake therefore does not seem compelling.
There is also strong evidence that the shaking of the ground caused by a great earthquake, such as the Macquarie Ridge earthquake, can trigger small earthquakes in sensitive tectonic environments at large distances from the great earthquake. The evidence for such triggering is most convincing when the earthquakes that are thought to be triggered occur near the time of strongest shaking from the triggering earthquake, which would be within several hours following the triggering earthquake. However, the Sumatra/Andaman-Islands earthquake occurred about two-and-a-half days after the Macquarie Ridge earthquake.
An alternative to the hypothesis that the Macquarie Ridge and Sumatra/Andaman Islands earthquakes are causally related is that the occurrence of the two, widely separated, great earthquakes within three days was a probabilistic coincidence.