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Regional Preparedness And Early Warning Praised Following Tsunami Threat

The earthquake, aftershocks and tsunami warnings that had a number of Indian Ocean countries on high alert yesterday has put to test the region’s preparedness and disaster response systems according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Indonesia. 

At least eight countries issued tsunami alerts following an 8.6 magnitude earthquake that struck 437 kilometers off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia at 3.38 pm local time. Evacuation orders were issued immediately for at risk coastal areas in Indonesia followed by Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and Myanmar. Two hours later an 8.2 aftershock triggered a second wave of tsunami warnings across the region.

“The fact that most people in the affected areas were promptly alerted to the situation and moved to higher ground is a testament to the effectiveness of the preparedness actions and early warning system,” said Ignacio Leon-Garcia, head of OCHA in Indonesia.

In the last seven years since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami which killed more than 226,000 people following a 9.1-magnitude earthquake, countries affected such as Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka have invested heavily in disaster response capacity and early warning systems.

While no major Tsunamis eventuated and there are no reports of significant damages from yesterday’s earthquakes, early warning systems are being praised for their effectiveness, in particular the use of mobile phones which promptly alerted people to the risk so they could move to higher ground.