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Dec 28, 2004

Tsunamis: is Caribbean at risk?

Story PictureTo date it is the deadliest, costliest natural disaster of the twenty-first century. More than fifty thousand dead and counting. Thousands more missing. Still thousands more homeless. In just a few hours, eleven countries in the Indian Ocean and as far away as the Eastern coast of Africa hit with devastating ferocity after a 9.0 earthquake initiated a tsunami with thirty foot and waves higher travelling at more than five hundred miles per hour. The United Nations estimates the damages in several billions of dollars. Now authorities fear the horrific tragedy will only get worse as cholera and malaria threaten the survivors. Today as Belizeans continued to watch the horror unfold on television and via the internet, some feared for friends and family, others asked, could that happen to us? News 5?s Jacqueline Woods reports.

Manisha Sadarangani, Member, Belize Indian Community
?This happened all over Asia, but basically in India it is a very busy day on Sunday. People are usually out, families are at the beach. We are even informed that a lot of tourists were visiting around this time. A lot of them just got washed away. I mean it was just something that came. There were people relaxing on the beach and all of a sudden this forty feet wave just washed them away. ?

Jacqueline Woods Reporting
In all the tsunami affected eleven Asian countries and left over fifty-two thousand people dead…thousands more are still reported as missing. The tidal wave travelled at an incredible speed of five hundred miles per hour, triggered by an earthquake that occurred at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. It measured a whopping nine point zero on the Richter scale.

Carlos Fuller, Chief Meteorologist
?If you are to take the combined effects of all the earthquakes we have had in the past twenty to thirty years, they do not come up to what this one earthquake alone, the force it generated. When the earthquake occurred, the sea bottom rose up and hence created this wave that travelled across the Indian Ocean at something like five hundred miles an hour. So there was not much warning or time to tell anybody that this thing was coming.?

Today, the Belize Indian community remained open for business but many like Manisha Sadarangani are very much concerned about the welfare of their family, relatives and friends living in the affected areas.

Manisha Sadarangani
?Well everyone was very surprised, everyone was in shock, a lot of people were very scared so we all got in touch with our families in India. It took some time, but we managed to get in touch with them. I have spoken to most of the families in Belize and they claimed that their family members are okay, their relatives are okay but I am sure we have lost a couple of friends that we don?t even know about. ?

Because Tsunamis usually occur in the Pacific Ocean, there was a general belief that there was no need to put in place warning systems in the Indian Ocean. Today scientists say such system would have saved some lives.

Carlos Fuller
?The warning system would comprise of buoys out at sea which would generate a shallow wave as it moves across the waters and you would be able to time how this wave is moving and where it is coming from and how long it would take for it strike any land and so those people would be provided with some sort of warning.?

In Belize, the only known natural disasters to have affected the country include hurricanes and floods…but can something like what happened in the Indian Ocean occur in the Atlantic Ocean or the Caribbean Sea and affect us?

Carlos Fuller
?There is a slight possibility. The reason why I say slight is that the chance is so remote that there is no warning system in the Atlantic or the Caribbean so, so far we have not judged it economical feasible to put a system in place. However we do have certain systems that could generate a Tsunami. For example, we have the Grand Cayman, the Cayman Trench, which runs off shore Belize from Jamaica to Belize, a massive earthquake could produce such a wave, there is the Kick?em Jenny near Barbados or the Monsterrat Volcano if it were to go a catastrophic explosion it could generate a Tsunami. Similarly there are volcanoes in Cape Verde off the shore of Africa which could generate such a Tsunami so there is a slight possibility that one could occur and affect the Caribbean.?

The Belize Indian Community has started an appeal to help the Tsunami victims. If you would like to contribute you can get in touch Manisha Sadarangani at Doony?s store at telephone number 227-5209. Jacqueline Woods for News 5.

According to our research, the most recent natural disaster of this magnitude is the typhoon of 1970 which struck Bangladesh and left five hundred thousand people dead.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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