Wednesday, November 21, 2012

JAN. 4, 2013 UPDATE: Movie on One Family’s Harrowing Experience during and after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami Is Tough To Watch, Especially if You Know One Phone Call Might Have Saved Thousands of Lives

A major motion picture – The Impossible – is now in theaters eight years after the devastating Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. When you see this movie, watch it with the knowledge that nothing the scientists at Honolulu's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did that day saved any lives.

(For a detailed description of the breakdown in the Warning Center's warning, read the December 27, 2007 post immediately below this one.)
The key word in the name of that agency is Pacific. Because the PTWC had not planned and implemented any media-contact protocols for massive earthquakes outside the Pacific, they had no way to send a useful alert – i.e., one that alerted people to the peril of the onrushing waves.

There were no warning protocols in place to efficiently tell those coastal populations what PTWC officials knew in the first hour after the massive earthquake devastated Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

They knew an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 and greater would most likely produce a killer tsunami. Knowing that, however, they realized within half an hour of the quake that they had no way to send an alert to the countries endangered by the rising water that soon would arrive.

This blog was created one week after the event as our reaction to the “We did everything we could” talking point the PTWC adopted in that first post-quake week. Had they prepared adequately, the international news media – CNN, BBC, Reuters, AP and others – could have sent warnings to the Indian Ocean region using their globe-circling networks.

Scores of thousands of coastal residents and holiday travelers died for the lack of a warning, many of them hours after the tsunami was generated in the eastern regions of the ocean. It took that long for the waves to reach Sri Lanka and other nations, hundreds or thousands of miles from the epicenter.

We invite you to read our third anniversary post, below, for a summary of what we had learned and concluded about the crisis response by the time Christmas 2007 rolled around. And if you’re intrigued enough to continue reading, please start with our first post on January 2, 2005 and continue reading as the days and weeks unfolded while the world was still trying to make sense of the tragedy and what could have been done to prevent it – to the degree that anything could have saved those unfortunate people.

We attended a showing of The Impossible today. The first half of the movie is difficult to watch. The tsunami was the greatest tragedy of modern times. The second half is exceptionally emotional, as well. We urge anyone interested enough to read this Tsunami Lessons post to see the movie.

When you do, you’ll probably appreciate why the “we did everything we could” mantra of the PTWC following the tsunami was so infuriating