December 26 marks the 16th anniversary of the Great Indian Ocean Tsunami. On this day, a 100-foot-high tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake that killed more than 230,000 people in South Asia from under the Indian Ocean. With the epicenter near Sumatra, Indonesia, the quake triggered a tsunami that struck Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia.
Vasily Titov, a tsunami researcher and forecaster with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for Tsunami Research, cites the catastrophic potential of the 2004 tsunami in the Megathrust error as ‘heavy seabed beneath lighter continental plates’. “They are the biggest mistakes in the world, they are all underwater,” history told him. He added that tsunami waves can cause mega waves like a huge pebble falling into the ocean.
The Sumatra earthquake and tsunami are considered to be an eye opener for India as the tsunami and its destructive power introduced off the Indian coast. Learned from an unprecedented natural disaster that caused great damage to life and property, the Earth Ministry installed the Indian Tsunami Early Warning System (ITEWS) in October 2007 at the National Center for Indian Information Services (INCOIS) in Hyderabad.
Scientists in India are now able to predict and plan movements in the Indian Ocean with real-time seismic surveillance along with Bottom Pressure Recorders (PPR), Tight Cages and 24X7 Functional Tsunami Warning System to detect tsunami-prone earthquakes to provide early advice to the most vulnerable.
UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) has launched a community performance-based project to promote tsunami preparation through the active involvement of the public, community leaders and national and local emergency management agencies. As part of the UNESCO-IOC framework, the ITWC now provides advice to all Indian Ocean fringes.
India was the first country to install an early warning system for tsunami detection, while Odisha was the first state in the country to be tsunami ready.