Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Mock drill: Tsunami exercise in the Indian Ocean rim nations

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 12: Giant LCD screens started flashing countdown even
as a huge wave kicked off by a massive earthquake beneath the sea at
Sumatra in Indonesia made its journey towards the East Coast of India.
The time was 6.30 am on Wednesday. Scores of seismic stations started
pouring in the quake data while the sea level gauges sent measurements
about the height and force of the tsunamigenic wave.

Within five minutes flat the warning bells in nuclear power stations
and thermal power stations started ringing. The Coast Guard, the
Indian Navy, the Home Ministry, the National Disaster Management
Authority, revenue, police, fire service and fisheries department
authorities received alerts on their mobile phones, fax machines,
emails and landline telephones. The warning was sent across by 6.35 am.

As India formally joined the select club of nations with regional
tsunami early warning systems on Wednesday, the city-based Tsunami
early warning centre attached to the Indian National Centre for Ocean
Information Services conducted a mock tsunami drill, re-enacting the
ocean and land events that had actually taken place on December 26,
2004.

Ironically, though this is the first time that such a massive tsunami
mock drill was conducted in the Indian Ocean, in which 23 nations
participated, Andhra Pradesh, which bore the brunt of the tsunami six
years ago, did not evince keen interest in the exercise. Only a
handful of villages in Prakasam and Krishna district participated.
Nellore was officially excluded because of PSLV C18 launch as it will
create confusion.

The Incois did not receive any action taken report or at least
acknowledgement of the warning till 2.30 pm from any of the centres in
Andhra Pradesh, though Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry were quick
to react.

In mock drill was conducted at Edurumondi and Nagayalanka in Krishna
and nine villages in Prakasam district. According to Machilipatnam RDO
V Venkateswar Reddy, it took 30 minutes for them to send message
across to the people from division to mandal and to village level. "We
sent sms and wireless messages to fishermen in the sea and farmers in
the fields while loud speakers blared tsunami warning. The people were
evacuated to identified locations. After one hour we told them it was
a mock exercise," he added.

In Prakasam district, officials contacted fishermen societies who had
already formed tsunami action teams. In five minutes people were
shifted to shelters, said P Balaram, assistant director, fisheries,
Ongole.

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