One of the most destructive and powerful earthquakes in recorded history, more than a quarter of a million recorded deaths, local economies destroyed, the lives of entire communities shattered, and no serious investigation into the flaws of the global seismic warning system is contemplated.
According to Columbia University’s Earth Institute the M-9.0 Sumatra – Andaman Island earthquake on December 26th released energy, equivalent roughly to 700 million Hiroshima bombs.
Seismic information regarding what scientists identify as a “rare great earthquake”, was available in near real time (i.e. almost immediately) to seismic centers around the World.
Other types of data, including satellite imagery were also available in near real time.
The advanced global seismic information and communications systems were fully operational.
Why then, did the information not get out on the morning of December 26th?
Ten of thousands of lives could have been saved.
The issue has been skirted by the Western media, sidestepped by the governments and the UN, not to mention the international scientific community.
The blame was casually placed on the Indian Ocean countries, described as having “inadequate communications systems”, not to mention the local people who “have to be trained to know what to do…If the people don’t respond, don’t understand what the communication is all about, it is for naught.” (Washington Times, 30Dec 2004)
What Happened on the Morning of December 26th?
The tsunami was triggered within minutes of the earthquake, prior to the release of the first tsunami advisory bulletin by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Hawaii, so it was no longer a question of emitting “a warning” of an imminent danger. The catastrophe had already happened.
In other words, by the time the first tsunami bulletin had been issued at 01.14 GMT, the deadly seismic wave was already sweeping Banda, the capital of Aceh province in Northern Sumatra, causing thousands of deaths.
Moreover, this ex post facto bulletin emitted by the PTWC, not only failed to acknowledge an ongoing disaster, it did not even warn of the potential danger of a tsunami, when the deadly seismic wave had already started, devastating densely populated areas. (PTWC bulletins apply to the Pacific as well as regions adjacent to the Pacific. For details, see:Discrepancies in the Tsunami Warning System )
Inconsistencies in the Tsunami Bulletins
Three days earlier, on the 23d of December, a M-7.9 earthquake was recorded with an epicenter off the South Pacific MacQuarie islands The PTWC issued the following routine tsunami advisory:
“THIS EARTHQUAKE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO GENERATE A WIDELY DESTRUCTIVE TSUNAMI IN THE SEA NEAR THE EARTHQUAKE. AUTHORITIES IN THAT REGION SHOULD BE AWARE OF THIS POSSIBILITY.”
Why then in the case of a M-9.0 earthquake, which is more than ten times greater in magnitude than a M-7.9 earthquake, did the PTWC authorities fail to even issue a tsunami warning?
An event of this type and magnitude is known as a “megathrust,” which in its specific Indian Ocean location is said to occur “approximately every few hundred years.” (See Columbia University Earth Institute ).
Scientists in fact suggested that the quake had unleashed enough energy that “it could have rocked the earth off its axis.” (See: Huge quake resonates, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Boston Globe)
In other words, the least one would have expected in the case of a “megathrust” was a similar routine statement to that issued in relation to the McQuarie islands earthquake, three days earlier, on December 23. (see:Discrepancies in the Tsunami Warning System )
The first bulletin emitted on the 26th not only failed to conform to established criteria used in previous and subsequent seismic occurrences, it casually dismissed an established and scientifically accepted relationship. According to
“If it were a 9 earthquake … with the thrusting in an ocean basin margin, the likelihood is almost 1:1 that it would generate a tsunami” (Dr. Charles Groat, Director, US Geological Survey in testimony to the Science Committee of the US House of Representatives, 26 Jan 2005).
The Earthquake took place at 00.58.50 GMT on the 26th of December. Roughly five minutes later it had hit the coast of Northern Sumatra, 11 minutes after the earthquake it devastated Banda, capital of Aceh. Fifteen minutes after the earthquake, at 01.14 GMT the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii confirmed in its bulletin:
“THERE IS NO TSUNAMI WARNING OR WATCH IN EFFECT”
Moreover, both official and news reports out of Aceh province, following the disaster, were either delayed or were not transmitted on time.
In other words, despite the dramatic nature of the quake, the seismic information, which was available in real time, failed to reach the countries affected by the seismic wave.
Why were the countries not informed of an impending disaster?
In the words of Maine Senator Olympia Snowe:
“… what efforts, if any, were made to contact those other nations in the region that were also in harm’s way? If NOAA did not have the appropriate contacts, as has been reported, why was this the case? Was an attempt made to obtain that contact information – and if not, why not? These are questions that must be answered.”
The Western media not only failed to address the failures in the warning system, they admonished those who raised the issue.
In fact, any serious analysis of the warning system was dismissed outright.
A few press reports, nonetheless, confirmed that, with the exception of Indonesia and Australia, the Indian Ocean countries had not been informed. These same reports, largely based on statements of the Pacific Tsunami Warning system (PTWC) in Hawaii, also acknowledged that the US State Department and the Military, including the US Navy base on the island of Diego Garcia in the Chagos Archipelago had been duly notified.
In retrospect, however, these earlier press reports (including our own analysis ) need to be qualified. Published in the immediate wake of the disaster, they quote official statements to the effect that the US government and military had been informed by the PTWC, when in fact the PTWC was on the “receiving end” of the flow of seismic data. (See Foreknowledge of a Natural Disaster , Richard Norton Taylor, US island base given warning: Bulletins sent to Diego Garcia ‘could have saved lives’, The Guardian, Jan 2005).
The Information was Known to an Entire Network of Organizations
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