Wednesday, January 12, 2005

An Example of Science & Technology That Failed To Serve The People

US had advance warning of tsunami: Canadian professor

By Khalid Hasan

01/03/05 "Daily Times" -- WASHINGTON: A Canadian expert has claimed that the US Military and the State Department were given advance tsunami warning and America’s Navy base on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean was notified but the information was not passed on to the countries that bore the brunt of the disaster.

Prof. Michel Chossudovsky of the University of Ottawa asks in an analysis produced for the Venus Project why fishermen in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand were not provided with the same warnings as the US Navy and the US State Department. He wants to know why the US State Department remained mum on the existence of an impending catastrophe. With a modern communications system, why did the information not get out? By email, telephone, fax, satellite TV, he asks, as it could have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Prof Chossudovsky writes that the US authorities had initially recorded 8.0 on the Richter scale. As confirmed by several reports, US scientists in Hawaii, had advanced knowledge regarding an impending catastrophe, but failed to contact their Asian counterparts. According to him, Charles McCreery of the Pacific Warning Centre in Hawaii confirmed that his team tried desperately to get in touch with his counterparts in Asia. According to McCreery, the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s centre in Honolulu, the team did its utmost to contact the countries.

The team contacted the US State Department, which apparently contacted the Asian governments. The Indian government has confirmed that no such warning was received. The Director of the Hawaii Warning Centre stated that “they did not know” that the earthquake would generate a deadly tidal wave until it had hit Sri Lanka, more than one and a half hours later, at 2.30 GMT. “Not until the deadly wave hit Sri Lanka and the scientists in Honolulu saw news reports of the damage there did they recognise what was happening. Then we knew there was something moving across the Indian Ocean,” McCreery told the New York Times on 27 December. “This statement is at odds with the Timeline of the tidal wave disaster. Thailand was hit almost an hour before Sri Lanka and the news reports were already out. Surely, these reports out of Thailand were known to the scientists in Hawaii, not to mention the office of Sec. Colin Powell, well before the tidal wave reached Sri Lanka,” argues the Canadian professor.

“We wanted to try to do something, but without a plan in place then, it was not an effective way to issue a warning, or to have it acted upon,” Dr. McCreery said. “There would have still been some time - not a lot of time, but some time - if there was something that could be done in Madagascar, or on the coast of Africa,” he added. The Canadian academic finds the statement “inconsistent.” The tidal wave, he argues, reached the East African coastline several hours after it reached The Maldives islands. According to news reports, Male, the capital of the Maldives was hit three hours after the earthquake, at approximately 4.00 GMT. By that time everybody around the world knew.

Prof. Chossudovsky writes, “It is worth noting that the US Navy was fully aware of the deadly tidal wave, because the Navy was on the Pacific Warning Centre’s list of contacts. Moreover, America’s strategic Naval base on the island of Diego Garcia had also been notified. Although directly in the path of the tidal wave, the Diego Garcia military base reported ‘no damage’,” All that was needed was for someone to pick up the phone and call Sri Lanka, he adds. Charles McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, said, “We don’t have contacts in our address book for anybody in that part of the world.” The fact is that only after the first waves hit Sri Lanka did workers at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre and others in Hawaii start making phone calls to US diplomats in Madagascar and Mauritius in an attempt to head off further disaster. “We didn’t have a contact in place where you could just pick up the phone,” Dolores Clark, spokeswoman for the International Tsunami Information Centre in Hawaii has said. “We were starting from scratch.”

Prof. Chossudovsky argues that these statements on the surface are inconsistent, since several Indian Ocean Asian countries are in fact members of the Tsunami Warning System. There are 26 member countries of the International Coordination Group for the Tsunami Warning System, including Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. All these countries would normally be in the address book of the PTWC, which works in close coordination with its sister organisation the ICGTWS, which has its offices in Honolulu at the headquarters of the National Weather Service Pacific Region Headquarters in downtown Honolulu. The mandate of the ICGTWS is to “assist member states in establishing national warning systems, and makes information available on current technologies for tsunami warning systems.”

Australia and Indonesia were notified. The US Congress is to investigate why the US government did not notify all the Indian Ocean nations in the affected area: “Only two countries in the affected region, Indonesia and Australia, received the warning” Although Thailand belongs to the international tsunami-warning network, its west coast does not have the system’s wave sensors mounted on ocean buoys. The northern tip of the earthquake fault is located near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and tsunamis appear to have rushed eastward toward the Thai resort of Phuket. “They had no tidal gauges and they had no warning,” said Waverly Person, a geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Centre in Golden, Colorado, which monitors seismic activity worldwide. “There are no buoys in the Indian Ocean and that’s where this tsunami occurred

Prof. Chossudovsky has framed the following three questions: First: Why were the Indian Ocean countries’ governments not informed? Were there “guidelines” from the US military or the State Department regarding the release of an advanced warning? According to the statement of the Hawaii based PTWC, advanced warning was released but on a selective basis. Indonesia was already hit, so the warning was in any event redundant and Australia was several thousand miles from the epicentre of the earthquake and was, therefore, under no immediate threat. Two: Did US authorities monitoring seismographic data have knowledge of the earthquake prior to its actual occurrence at 00.57 GMT on the 26th of December? The question is whether there were indications of abnormal seismic activity prior to 01.00 GMT on the 26th of December. The US Geological Survey confirmed that the earthquake which triggered the tidal wave measured 9.0 on the Richter scale and was the fourth largest quake since 1900. In such cases, one would expect evidence of abnormal seismic activity before the actual occurrence of a major earthquake. Three: Why is the US military Calling the Shots on Humanitarian Relief? Why in the wake of the disaster, is the US military (rather than civilian humanitarian/aid organizations operating under UN auspices) taking a lead role? The US Pacific Command has been designated to coordinate the channeling of emergency relief? Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Rusty Blackman, commander of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force based in Okinawa, has been designated to lead the emergency relief programme. Lieutenant General Blackman was previously Chief of Staff for Coalition Forces Land Component Command, responsible for leading the Marines into Baghdad during “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Three “Marine disaster relief assessment teams” under Blackman’s command have been sent to Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. US military aircraft are conducting observation missions.

Prof. Chossudovsky writes, “In a bitter irony, part of this operation is being coordinated out of America’s Naval base in Diego Garcia, which was not struck by the tidal wave. Meanwhile, USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, which was in Hong Kong when the earthquake and tsunamis struck, has been diverted to the Gulf of Thailand to support recovery operations. Two Aircraft Carriers have been sent to the region. Why is it necessary for the US to mobilise so much military equipment? The pattern is unprecedented ... Why has a senior commander involved in the invasion of Iraq been assigned to lead the US emergency relief program?”


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