40,000 evacuated along India’s coast in massive tsunami drill

NEW DELHI,Sept7: Massive tsunami drill, which will simulate a series of life-threatening tsunamis rushing through the Indian Ocean, has begun this morning. Altogether, 23 nations on the Indian Ocean will be part of this drill, which will be coordinated by UNESCO.

A tsunami is triggered usually by a massive earthquake, land slide or even a volcanic explosion under the sea. The energy released by these geological events travels in the form a wave over long distances, causing massive damage in shallow coastal belts.

Most of coastal India is at risk of tsunamis and mock drills help keep the systems well-oiled to handle real emergencies.

The first drill was conducted at 8.30 am, with a 9.2 magnitude simulated quake in the south of Sumatra. A tsunami triggered by a real quake in the area will hit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the whole of east coast, including Chennai.

The seismic event will be recorded by the high-tech Indian Tsunami Early Warning Center in Hyderabad and within 10 minutes, the center will issue its first advisory.

Special efforts are being made to evacuate up to 40,000 people after the warning has been issued. A tsunami emerging from the Indonesia region usually takes around 3 hours to hit India, so there will be adequate time to evacuate the people.

The drill will last more than 15 hours.

On Thursday, an earthquake of 9 magnitude will be simulated in the Makran Trench, south of Iran and Pakistan. India’s west coast, including Mumbai, would be in the path of a resulting tsunami.

The Tsunami Warning Network was established after the devastating 2004 tsunami that killed more than 3 lakh people in the Indian Ocean region. It was triggered by a 9.3 magnitude earthquake in Indonesia.

India set up its Tsunami Warning Center in 2007 at a cost of Rs. 85 crore. It uses networked satellites and special buoys placed in the deep ocean to issue early warnings. India also provides tsunami early warning to Pakistan.

Since 2007, the Tsunami warning center has issued 8 real tsunami advisories and SC Shenoi, its director, says “no false warning have been issued till date” – an achievement since the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has issued many false warnings, eroding people’s confidence in the system.

India’s nuclear plants, including Kalpakkam, Kudankulam and Tarapur which can be affected by a tsunami, will not be part of the drill, said Mr Shenoi.

The 2011 nuclear accident at Japan’s Fukushima was set in motion when a massive tsunami had hit the atomic plants. There has been a heightened global concern on coastal atomic installations since.