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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Asia relives the horror of 2004

Banda Aceh (Indonesia):Two massive earthquakes triggered back-to-back tsunami warnings for Indonesia and its southeast Asian neighbours on Wednesday, re-awakening painful memories of the catastrophic 2004 tsunami and sending panicked residents fleeing to high ground in cars and on motorcycles. 
    No deadly waves followed, and a tsunami watch for much of the Indian Ocean was lifted after a few hours. 
    Women and children cried in Aceh, where memories are still raw of the 2004 disaster that killed 170,000 people in the province. Others screamed "God is great" as they poured from their homes or searched frantically for their family members. 
    Patients were wheeled out of hospitals, some still lying in their beds with drips attached to their arms. At least one hotel guest was injured when he jumped out of his window. 
    The US Geological Survey said the epicentre of the first 8.6-magnitude quake was a shallow 22km below the Indian Ocean bed, 435 km from Aceh's provincial capital. 
    An alert followed from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, advising countries along the rim of the Indian Ocean that a seismically charged wave could head their way. AGENCIES Evacuations started soon after tsunami scare 
Banda Aceh (Indonesia): 
Two deadly tsunamis in the last decade — the most recent off Japan just one year ago — have left the world much better prepared. Sirens sounded along coastlines and warnings spread like wildfire by mobile phone text messaging. Though often chaotic, evacuations began immediately with streets clogged with traffic, especially in Aceh. 
    People near the coast in six Thai provinces were ordered to move to higher ground. Authorities shut down the international airport in the Thai beach resort province of Phuket. The only wave to hit, though, was less than 30 inches high, rolling to Indonesia's emptied coastline. Just as the region was sighing relief, an 8.2-magnitude aftershock followed. 
    "We just issued another tsunami warning," Prih Harjadi, from Indonesia's geophysics agency, told TVOne in a live interview. He told his countrymen to stay clear of western coasts. 
    Residents in Aceh could hardly believe it. "What did we do to deserve this?" cried Aisyah Husaini, 47, who lost both her parents and a son in the 2004 tsunami. "What sins have we committed?" 
    Again, though, the threat quickly passed. 
    The tremors, however, were felt in neighbouring Malaysia, where high-rise buildings shook, Thailand and Bangladesh, apart from India. Those countries, as well as Sri Lanka and the Maldives evacuated buildings and beaches and readied relief efforts in case of disaster. 
    The World Meteorological Organization said communication systems set up after the 2004 tsunami appeared to have worked well. "Our records indicate that all the national meteorological services in the countries at risk by this tsunami have received the warnings in under five minutes," said Maryam Golnaraghi, the head of WMO's disaster risk reduction program. 
    The alert was sent out by US National Weather Service, which operates a tsunami warning station in Hawaii, she said. AGENCIES


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