Spectre of tsunami: Impact assessment  

Published: January 05, 2019 22:03:08 | Updated: January 07, 2019 21:57:03

That behaviours of nature, not yet explained, are responsible for killer calamities has amply been proved once again by the tsunami that battered some Indonesian island-towns and villages on December 23. The tsunami triggered by the undersea chunk of a suddenly erupting dormant volcano in the area has killed over 400 people. It left a trail of devastations, destroying coastal villages and beach towns, and displacing thousands. The area lies between the provinces of Sumatra and Java. The disaster was unexpected, quite shell-shockingly at that. The deaths and destructions have apparently been caused by the people being taken completely off guard. Tsunami onslaughts coming without warning add to their calamitous impact. Seismologists ascribed this feature to the cataclysmic Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004.

Despite not being too frequent, giant tsunami waves have been causing deaths and destructions to humans since ancient times. It is primarily caused by earthquakes on seafloors --- or submarine earthquakes, in a region. Some seas, especially the Indian Ocean have long been found vulnerable to this calamity. The Indonesian islands, the coasts of Myanmar, Bangladesh, South India, Sri Lanka and the eastern Africa are considered among the tsunami-prone regions; so are the Pacific tsunamis in the Japan-Taiwan region. In spite of being on the path of deadly cyclones, and being ravaged intermittently, Bangladesh has so far been free of the scourge of tsunamis. However, the country's coastal belt experienced a mild brush during the devastating 2004 tsunami. This has necessitated the imperative of putting in place a tsunami-tackling infrastructure. Since seismologists and related scientists have yet to come up with an effective tsunami warning system, focus on evacuation and rescue operations emerges as a practical way out for the country. This land was caught in a state of helplessness during the mega cyclone of 1970. People were virtually in the dark as the super-storm sped towards the coastal belt. Warnings were allegedly made in an utterly negligent manner by the then Pakistani authorities, worsened by a shocking absence of rescue and rehabilitation measures.

The country now has a well-equipped and modern weather forecast system in place. But like the other countries, it lacks the mechanism of forecasting tsunamis. The calamity of tsunami may strike its coast any time due to the Bay of Bengal's being part of the Indian Ocean. When it comes to dealing with the post-tsunami situation, Bangladesh appears to be lagging behind many countries. Owing to cyclones' frequent assaults on the country, special concrete shelters now dot its coastal areas. Keeping the dreaded tsunami in view, strong elevated shelters coupled with rescue and other emergency services need to be arranged without much delay. These imperatives deserve to be among the long-term disaster preparedness programmes.

Bangladesh doesn't have volcanoes. But it is one of the most tectonically active regions in the world.  The country sits on three tectonic plates including the Indian and Burmese ones. A massive earthquake has long been considered poised to strike the country. Of all places, the greater Chattogram, close to the Bay, is viewed as the most earthquake-prone zone in the country.  A large-scale tsunami strike may take a heavy toll on the zone's seaport infrastructures. There are few scopes to downplay the dread.

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