Thursday, December 30, 2004


According to the Washington Post:

An international agency that monitors nuclear explosions around the world almost certainly picked up immediate signs of the underwater earthquake and tsunami in South East Asia on instruments it operates around the Indian Ocean, but it had no chance to alert governments in the region because its offices were closed for the holidays, according to a spokeswoman.
The information from the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization's network may yield insights into the catastrophe but would not have been critical in saving lives, because there is no functioning system capable of channeling early warnings to regions struck by the tsunami, said earthquake and tsunami experts. Still, the agency's failure to react during one of the most catastrophic seismic events in decades has proved embarrassing, officials said.
Daniela Rozgonova, spokeswoman for the Vienna-based agency, said raw data from its seismic and hydroacoustic monitoring stations in the region will be reviewed by analysts when they return from vacation on Tuesday.
She insisted that a team of about 100 analysts at the agency's International Data Center in Vienna would not have been able to get a warning to tsunami victims even if they had been at work. "The whole system has not been set up to warn for natural disasters," she said. "It's not set up for it."

The system is set up to monitor illegal nuclear tests. I guess these are guaranteed not to take place around Christmas time. This is not the only monitoring system that probably spotted the earthquake in time for at least some warnings, but none of these monitoring systems appear to have the practical purpose of providing warnings of impending earthquakes, at least internationally.

Which is heartbreaking, as well as really stupid of us humans. Surely there are easier ways to learn about international cooperation and efficient warning systems than what the earth has just given us? Or perhaps not, as we didn't listen before. Well, I hope we listen now.