Tsunami-hit nations better prepared

Indian Ocean states have shown they are better prepared to deal with the possibility of another tsunami after an earthquake off Indonesia triggered warnings.

    Sri Lankans gathered on high ground after fleeing their homes

    Police, soldiers, monks, fishermen and ordinary residents of coastal areas across the Indian Ocean used loudspeakers, radio, telephones and temple bells to warn of the possibility of another tsunami following the 8.7 magnitude quake off Sumatra on Monday.

    The reaction was in contrast to three months ago, when Asian nations were not even part of a tsunami warning network, and a tsunami left nearly 300,000 people dead.

    The risk this time was immediately relayed by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii and distributed across the region.

    In Banda Aceh, hardest hit last year, panicked residents rushed into the streets after Monday's quake.

    In Thailand, where nearly 5400 people died in the 26 December tsunami, officials used everything from loudspeakers and radio to telephone to get the message out, because a planned warning system has not yet been installed.

    Higher ground

    On the tsunami-devastated Thai island of Koh Phi Phi, "everybody thought it better to be safe than sorry and made it to higher ground", said Andrew Hewett, an adventure holidays operator. 

    Acehnese villagers feared
    another tsunami would strike

     

    In Sri Lanka, evacuation sirens began wailing on the tsunami-battered east coast within two hours of the earthquake, and police drove through coastal communities with loudspeakers, advising residents to flee inland.
       
    All along Sri Lanka's ravaged south, east and northern coastline, thousands of people packed a few possessions in plastic bags and cardboard boxes and sat by the main coastal roads trying to hail taxis or lifts inland.

    In India, the authorities and coastal communities appeared better prepared and more aware of what to do this time.
       
    Police mobilised

    People fled risk areas as soon as they saw or heard the first news flashes, and police and officials quickly mobilised in vulnerable coastal areas.

    People in Malaysia slept on streets
    fearing collapse of buildings

    In Malaysia, the authorities issued tsunami warnings within an hour, telling people to head for higher ground.

    Police went from door to door raising the alarm, fishermen rushed to secure boat moorings and hotels put staff on standby to evacuate guests.

    Elsewhere across the Indian Ocean, beach-front roads in major resort areas - where tourist numbers are still well down from last year - were clogged with traffic as residents and holidaymakers jumped in any available transport to head to higher ground.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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