But Where Was the Warning?

December 26, 2004 turned tragic when an earthquake of magnitude 9.3 hit the Indian Ocean. In the days that followed, 275,000 people died in eleven countries including India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar and South Africa. Many lost their homes. Thousands lost their dear ones. Orphaned children were smuggled into lands far away. Thousands of families were ruined. Hundreds of thousands of lives, careers, hopes and aspirations were shattered.

In the months that followed, Indonesia, the worst hit country, in coordination with Germany, began installing a tsunami early warning system. The system, comprised of 15 modules, was scheduled to be completed by 2007. Its first two modules were installed in November 2005. After its completion, it was supposed to cover all of Indonesia’s coastal line and issue warnings in less than 15 minutes after an earthquake hit.

However, despite the early warning system, July 17, 2006 turned tragic too. An earthquake of magnitude 7.7 hit Indonesia again. Early estimates put the death toll near 400. Another 450 people are missing and some 52,700 have been displaced. The death toll, according to the Indonesian Vice Pesident, Jusuf Kalla, is expected to rise in the coming days.

Although aid efforts are underway, the critical question to be asked here is why, despite having much of the ‘early warning’ system in place, did the government not warn the public of the looming danger? The system by now is supposed to have enough integrity to detect tsunamis as big as this one. Besides, miles away, Japanese sensors sensed the coming dangers and issued warnings to parts of Indonesia and Australia. However, that was not enough; a government warning should have been issued. The lack of government warning not only caused people to stay unaware of the danger, but also to rush into the open sea to collect fish stranded as a result of the coming tsunami.

There can be two possible answers: Government inadequacy to issue warning, and scientific error. Tsunami warning systems cannot sense tsunami danger by themselves. They only relay data of ocean activity to the scientists stationed at warning centers. It is the scientists’ job to interpret the data and begin the string of warnings. Sometimes the data is misinterpreted and warnings are not issued.

If it is a government shortcoming, it is condemnable. If it is a scientific error, it is a reminder of the fact that despite the technological advancements, Mother Nature still has the upper hand.



Jusuf Kalla, Indonesian Vice President, said the government didn’t have enough time to issue a warning as the tsunami hit too quickly.

Note: There are no warning sirens on Indonesian beaches. The warning system works by sending warnings to peoples’ landline and mobile phones and email boxes.


11 Responses to “But Where Was the Warning?”

  1. 1 J's Girlfriend October 29, 2006 at 8:12 am

    OK, without saying that NATO is doing a great job in Afghanistan (they’ve just apologised so they’re clearly not doing that great of a job), I would just like to question your choice of source. Pajhwok are really not that reliable (although better than AIP, I think)…

    At any rate good luck with your SATs, they can be a bitch!

  2. 2 ninglun October 29, 2006 at 8:24 am

    Something has happened to your comments! Check it out; perhaps it is the new template that has done it. It does look good, by the way.

  3. 3 MyScribbles: Write-ups of an Afghan October 29, 2006 at 10:33 am

    Thanks, Ninglun, a couple of spam messages did seem to pass by. Everything’s under control now. It’s amazing how you noticed them before I did. Thank again.

  4. 4 MyScribbles: Write-ups of an Afghan October 29, 2006 at 10:45 am

    J’s Girlfriend, Pajhwok is one of Afghanistan’s premier news agencies. It is one of the few offering extensive coverage in English. Often it covers important stories missed by the mainstream media. But I agree, its journalists do not exhibit acceptable professionalism, sometimes producing sloppy news stories. However, that shouldn’t mean the verity of their stories should be doubted.

  5. 5 Ranya October 30, 2006 at 8:11 am

    Just wanted to say I really like the new template of your site. It’s really nice! Easier to read, good looking.

  6. 6 politicaldishonesty October 30, 2006 at 8:02 pm


    another terrorist appeaser blog huh. So sad.

    locate a real blog at www. politicaldishonesty.com

  7. 7 ninglun October 31, 2006 at 4:55 am

    I have addressed the above comment from politicaldishonesty here.

    Ahmad, the problem with your comments is that all the earlier ones seem to have disappeared and this collection no longer is joined to any particular post. Something is definitely wrong with this template, though it does look good. Check it out.

  8. 8 Ranya October 31, 2006 at 5:41 am

    The freedom of speech, Trollmeister. Isn’t that what America so proudly stands for? Free, independent minds? The freedom of independent thoughts and ideas? We should be happy on Ahmad’s behalf, he has clearly shown he’s worthy of his writings, and logicly mature in his opinions. No one is being a hypocrite here, besides the one who denies what he stands for.

    After all, blamed for hypocrisy by a hypocrite. Ironic.

    All the best for Ahmad. The world media needs more of his kind.

  9. 9 Ranya October 31, 2006 at 5:43 am

    spelling correction: ..”logically mature”..

  10. 10 Ranya October 31, 2006 at 5:47 am

    Ok, this is strange, I really liked the look of this new template on your site this morning, but it behaves so strangely. My comments are all over the place now, not really where they are supposed to be. Why is this happening? Freaky.

  11. 11 chad edwards October 31, 2006 at 10:43 am

    Communism failed and I can’t wait for capitalism to join it in the graveyard of economic theories. Seriously. There has got to be a better way.

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I no longer update this weblog due to academic and other preoccupations. However, feel free to browse through its older entries. Thanks.
This is a weblog where a journalism enthusiast Afghan student writes about hot contemporary issues from an Afghan perspective. Enjoy your visit! Contact: mail . myscribbles @ gmail . com

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