This illustration—from NOAA's "Science on a Sphere"—depicts the Indian Ocean tsunami as it moved across the water on December 26, 2004.  Since the Indian Ocean lacked a tsunami-detection system, at the time, people were stunned when the waves arrived without any warning.  Image online, courtesy NOAA.


Earthquakes occur nearly every day, but only damage-causing events make "the news."  The USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) provides information about all those quakes and tremblors, both in America and around the world.

The "Ring of Fire," in the Pacific region, produces more earthquakes than any other place on Earth.  However ... major seismic movements, like the Great Sumatra-Andaman Quake, can occur elsewhere. 

A deadly tsunami, for example, was born in the same general area - near Sumatra - when a long-dormant volcano called Krakatoa erupted in 1883.  After coming to life in May of that year, Krakatoa literally blew itself apart on August 27.  The sound of that tsunami-causing explosion was heard on Rodrigues Island - in the Indian Ocean - nearly 3,000 miles away!

Like the tsunami of 2004, the tsunami of 1883 occurred without warning to anyone living in the area.  Tens of thousands of people could not avoid, or outrun, the raging water.

By the 20th century, a tsunami warning system was in place throughout the Pacific Ocean.  But ... on the day of the Great Sumatra-Andaman quake - during the early 21st century - not a single warning device was available in the Indian Ocean.

Things changed, in the aftermath of the disaster, but it took two years before the first DART (Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis) buoy was installed and operational.  Today there are a few reporting buoys in place - between Sri Lanka and India (to the west) and Thailand (to the east) - as depicted on NOAA's interactive map.

On the morning of the 2004 quake, the first scientists to realize that a major seismic event had occurred were working in Hawaii.  They had no clue, however, that a tsunami was forming. 

Now that DART units are in place, in the Bay of Bengal, people living (and visiting) in that area should have some warning that a tsunami could threaten their lives and property.  Seismic-caused waves can wreak havoc inland, as well as along the coast, so part of an appropriate warning response (and disaster plan) is to quickly reach high ground away from the shoreline.

No one knew about that, however, as events following the December 26th quake began to unfold.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jan 01, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Jul 15, 2019

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"LACK of TSUNAMI WARNING SYSTEM" AwesomeStories.com. Jan 01, 2013. Jan 29, 2020.
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