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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

General news from India and miscellany

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At December 29, 2004 at 2:58 PM, Blogger lavanya said...

Death toll in Andamans put at 10,000

PORT BLAIR, DEC. 29. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands administration has completed a survey of survivors of all the inhabited islands and the death toll in Sunday's tsunami strike is now officially put at over 10,000 — dead or presumed dead. More than 72 hours after the killer waves came and went, authorities have lost hope of any of those categorised as "missing" being found alive. "If any of them were alive, they would have returned by now," says the Inspector-General of Police, S.B. Deol.

The distance between the inhabited islands, where the survey of survivors is over, and the uninhabited islands precludes the possibility of those declared "missing" having survived. They are now presumed dead.

Toll may rise


However, the death toll could go up further. Some of those injured could die, but more importantly, many of the islands officially considered uninhabited have actually been encroached upon by the Nicobarese.

In Car Nicobar, where an Indian Air Force base was wiped out, the death toll could be as high as 3,000. In Katchal, the figure is 2,000 and in Chowra it is 1,000. Camorta, Campbell Bay, Hut Bay, Teressa, Trinkat and the smaller islands, where the dead are in hundreds, make up the total.

Lack of access


Relief operations have been hampered, not by shortage of food and medicine, which have reached in plenty, but by the lack of access. The tsunami destroyed almost all the jetties. For a group of islands, this is as bad as it could get.

Coast Guard vessels now approach the affected islands and deliver the relief material in small boats.

The administration has now requisitioned more helicopters, but they would have to be brought by ships. And time is of the essence now.

More than 25,000 people have been rendered homeless. In some islands, where relief could not be reached immediately, coconut trees kept many of the victims alive.

The most affected settlements were on the south-eastern side of the islands. In the first few hours after the tragedy, authorities grossly underestimated the extent of the damage. With the communications systems down, only a physical survey, which took three days to complete, gave a full picture of the devastation.

More than 60,000 people, in Little Andamans, Car Nicobar, Nancowrie islands and Campbell Bay were completely cut off.

There have been no confirmed deaths of foreigners or tourists. Similarly, primitive tribes of negrito origin such as the Great Andamanese, Onges, Jarawas and Sentinalese are not known to have been affected. The Shompens, though they inhabit the Nicobar islands, were also relatively safe.

But the Nicobarese, who like the Shompens are of Mongoloid stock, faced the full impact of the killer waves.

Indeed, officials believe that no Nicobarese was untouched.

 
At December 29, 2004 at 6:41 PM, Blogger naturalwaters2004 said...

What is a tsunami? and more information about Tsunami's
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A tsunami (pronounced tsoo-nah-mee) is a wave train, or series of waves, generated in a body of water by an impulsive disturbance that vertically displaces the water column. Earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, explosions, and even the impact of cosmic bodies, such as meteorites, can generate tsunamis. Tsunamis can savagely attack coastlines, causing devastating property damage and loss of life.

How do tsunamis differ from other water waves?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tsunamis are unlike wind-generated waves, which many of us may have observed on a local lake or at a coastal beach, in that they are characterized as shallow-water waves, with long periods and wave lengths. The wind-generated swell one sees at a California beach, for example, spawned by a storm out in the Pacific and rhythmically rolling in, one wave after another, might have a period of about 10 seconds and a wave length of 150 m. A tsunami, on the other hand, can have a wavelength in excess of 100 km and period on the order of one hour.
As a result of their long wave lengths, tsunamis behave as shallow-water waves. A wave becomes a shallow-water wave when the ratio between the water depth and its wave length gets very small. Shallow-water waves move at a speed that is equal to the square root of the product of the acceleration of gravity (9.8 m/s/s) and the water depth - let's see what this implies: In the Pacific Ocean, where the typical water depth is about 4000 m, a tsunami travels at about 200 m/s, or over 700 km/hr. Because the rate at which a wave loses its energy is inversely related to its wave length, tsunamis not only propagate at high speeds, they can also travel great, transoceanic distances with limited energy losses.

How do earthquakes generate tsunamis?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tsunamis can be generated when the sea floor abruptly deforms and vertically displaces the overlying water. Tectonic earthquakes are a particular kind of earthquake that are associated with the earth's crustal deformation; when these earthquakes occur beneath the sea, the water above the deformed area is displaced from its equilibrium position. Waves are formed as the displaced water mass, which acts under the influence of gravity, attempts to regain its equilibrium. When large areas of the sea floor elevate or subside, a tsunami can be created.
Large vertical movements of the earth's crust can occur at plate boundaries. Plates interact along these boundaries called faults. Around the margins of the Pacific Ocean, for example, denser oceanic plates slip under continental plates in a process known as subduction. Subduction earthquakes are particularly effective in generating tsunamis.


What happens when a tsunami reaches the shore or land
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As a tsunami approaches shore, we've learned in the "What happens to a tsunami as it approaches land?" section that it begins to slow and grow in height. Just like other water waves, tsunamis begin to lose energy as they rush onshore - part of the wave energy is reflected offshore, while the shoreward-propagating wave energy is dissipated through bottom friction and turbulence. Despite these losses, tsunamis still reach the coast with tremendous amounts of energy. Tsunamis have great erosional potential, stripping beaches of sand that may have taken years to accumulate and undermining trees and other coastal vegetation. Capable of inundating, or flooding, hundreds of meters inland past the typical high-water level, the fast-moving water associated with the inundating tsunami can crush homes and other coastal structures. Tsunamis may reach a maximum vertical height onshore above sea level, often called a runup height, of 10, 20, and even 30 meters.

 
At December 29, 2004 at 6:50 PM, Blogger naturalwaters2004 said...

What is a tsunami? And more information on Tsunami.

(This information obtained from: http://www.geophys.washington.edu/tsunami/general/physics/)
------------------------
A tsunami (pronounced tsoo-nah-mee) is a wave train, or series of waves, generated in a body of water by an impulsive disturbance that vertically displaces the water column. Earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, explosions, and even the impact of cosmic bodies, such as meteorites, can generate tsunamis. Tsunamis can savagely attack coastlines, causing devastating property damage and loss of life.

How do tsunamis differ from other water waves?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tsunamis are unlike wind-generated waves, which many of us may have observed on a local lake or at a coastal beach, in that they are characterized as shallow-water waves, with long periods and wave lengths. The wind-generated swell one sees at a California beach, for example, spawned by a storm out in the Pacific and rhythmically rolling in, one wave after another, might have a period of about 10 seconds and a wave length of 150 m. A tsunami, on the other hand, can have a wavelength in excess of 100 km and period on the order of one hour.
As a result of their long wave lengths, tsunamis behave as shallow-water waves. A wave becomes a shallow-water wave when the ratio between the water depth and its wave length gets very small. Shallow-water waves move at a speed that is equal to the square root of the product of the acceleration of gravity (9.8 m/s/s) and the water depth - let's see what this implies: In the Pacific Ocean, where the typical water depth is about 4000 m, a tsunami travels at about 200 m/s, or over 700 km/hr. Because the rate at which a wave loses its energy is inversely related to its wave length, tsunamis not only propagate at high speeds, they can also travel great, transoceanic distances with limited energy losses.

How do earthquakes generate tsunamis?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tsunamis can be generated when the sea floor abruptly deforms and vertically displaces the overlying water. Tectonic earthquakes are a particular kind of earthquake that are associated with the earth's crustal deformation; when these earthquakes occur beneath the sea, the water above the deformed area is displaced from its equilibrium position. Waves are formed as the displaced water mass, which acts under the influence of gravity, attempts to regain its equilibrium. When large areas of the sea floor elevate or subside, a tsunami can be created.
Large vertical movements of the earth's crust can occur at plate boundaries. Plates interact along these boundaries called faults. Around the margins of the Pacific Ocean, for example, denser oceanic plates slip under continental plates in a process known as subduction. Subduction earthquakes are particularly effective in generating tsunamis.


What happens when a tsunami reaches the shore or land
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

As a tsunami approaches shore, we've learned in the "What happens to a tsunami as it approaches land?" section that it begins to slow and grow in height. Just like other water waves, tsunamis begin to lose energy as they rush onshore - part of the wave energy is reflected offshore, while the shoreward-propagating wave energy is dissipated through bottom friction and turbulence. Despite these losses, tsunamis still reach the coast with tremendous amounts of energy. Tsunamis have great erosional potential, stripping beaches of sand that may have taken years to accumulate and undermining trees and other coastal vegetation. Capable of inundating, or flooding, hundreds of meters inland past the typical high-water level, the fast-moving water associated with the inundating tsunami can crush homes and other coastal structures. Tsunamis may reach a maximum vertical height onshore above sea level, often called a runup height, of 10, 20, and even 30 meters.

 
At January 12, 2005 at 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Envoy Defends India's Going It Alone

By Nora Boustany (from Washington POst)


India's ambassador to Washington, Ronen Sen, said yesterday that his country was able to handle its relief effort on its own following last month's tsunami in the Indian Ocean, which hit his country and 11 others, killing more than 150,000 people.

He defended his government's decision to decline international relief aid, which he said was neither an "insensitive response, nor was it snooty or arrogant, but a matter of capability, timely reaction and pride."

"It is a fact" that the Indian navy has the largest presence in the Indian Ocean and could respond within an hour in some cases, the ambassador said. "Our job was not to compete with anyone or make political points at a critical time, but to mount search-and-rescue operations," he said. "Our first and foremost thought, our immediate motivation was to rescue people. When someone is sinking in the water, you rush to help, you think later."

Focusing on foreign assistance in the initial stages would have diverted attention from pressing concerns and distracted the national effort, he said. "You forget, it was all a matter of hours. Of course we wanted to get relief to everyone, but we were not alerted by all those affected. In some of the remote islands that have maintained their lifestyle for thousands of years, when we finally dropped relief supplies, they began shooting at the helicopters with bows and arrows," he said.

India deployed three hospital ships and 38 naval and coast guard vessels, a large number of helicopters and small and medium fixed-wing aircraft, and 15,000 service members and others to assist Indian people affected by the tsunami. It also provided aid to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Maldives, Sen said.

One of the areas hit hardest by the tsunami was India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an archipelago with a population of 350,000 off the coasts of Burma, Thailand and Indonesia, about 900 hundred miles east of the Indian mainland. Of the 5,628 people missing, according to the latest update from India, 5,542 were from the islands, Sen said.

The main air force base on the island of Car Nicobar was devastated by the tsunami. The ambassador said 33 pilots and 72 family members and civilian personnel were killed. The base's helicopter squadron was washed out to sea, he added.

"Still, as soon as we moved helicopters in, some of the surviving pilots, with barely any clothes on, were flying again to move people in and out. People do not realize. Why refuse aid, they ask? First, we had the capability, and we knew we could deal with it on our own," he said.

According to a field report, Sen said, the air base was operational again four days after the disaster.

There are more than 500 islands in the archipelago, and many of their inhabitants are members of indigenous tribes. News reports have focused on whether relief workers have been able to contact residents throughout the islands.

Sen said some tribes on the islands have little contact with the outside world. "We don't allow ordinary Indians to go there. One tribe was once totally wiped out from getting a common cold. They live on fish, coconut, some wildlife and turtles," he said. "We have been so careful to preserve them for so long.

"We could have ended up doing more damage, getting rescuers killed also. I am not doubting anybody's goodwill. We are very grateful for the outpouring of affection and sympathy from Americans from all walks of life, especially schoolchildren."

A core group composed of India, the United States, Australia and Japan -- countries with major resources in the Indian Ocean -- went into high gear in the first stages of the emergency under the coordination of Marc Grossman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs. The group has now disbanded to allow the United Nations to coordinate relief and rehabilitation as a multilateral institution.

Indian citizens also contributed to the relief effort. "There have been donations from the north of the country in Kashmir to the southernmost tip, and that has been uplifting," Sen said, citing $100 million collected since Dec. 27.

By last Thursday, India had spent $250 million on rescue and relief within the country and provided $25.5 million to neighboring countries, according to the Indian Embassy.

"Our practical experience with past cyclones and natural disasters showed that relief from outside accounted for much less than 5 percent of the total effort," the ambassador said. "We know how to treat waterborne diseases which no one else knows about. We have one of the largest pharmaceutical industries producing medication at one-tenth of the cost overseas."

Sen also discussed his experience in dealing with an earthquake in the state of Gujarat in 2001, when German authorities asked how they could help. The earthquake killed an estimated 20,000 people. Sen, then ambassador to Germany, advocated reconstruction help rather than charity. "People would like to come out of this with their heads held high," he said. "They don't want a handout, but don't prevent them from helping themselves."

In the case of the tsunami, the poorest members of society have been affected, Sen said. "The multimillionaires with tourist complexes have just been reduced to millionaires," he said. "The most vulnerable victims are the fishermen in the remote islands. Their homes, their means and tools of livelihood have been completely destroyed. We will look into the possibility of assistance once we draw up plans for rehabilitation," he said.

Meanwhile, tight restrictions on travel are hampering relief work in the islands, according to wire reports from that area, as islanders still struggle to make it to safety and temporary shelters along India's Nicobar chain.

 

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