Thursday, October 01, 2009

Fiji Times Editorial

(image found in Google)from w.
Today's editorial in the Fiji Times provides a clear explanation of the geology and marine environment in which the South Pacific people are situated. An earthquake or a tsunami is not 'an act of God', it is part of the vulnerability we experience in life because of weather and geology. These are extraordinary events and hopefully rare, but they can be explained. Fiji had a very large loka (tsunami) in the Labasa area in 1928 when the surge went right up the rivers. Be alert. Be prepared.

I was astonished to read that when an earlier tsunami warning was given in Fiji, teachers of schools along the shoreline in Suva told the children to go straight home. Many of them walked to the bus-stand along the Nasese seawall!

An earth-shattering wake-up call
Friday, October 02, 2009

AS we slept last night, several earthquakes were occurring in the trenches deep in the ocean all around us.In fact, after the 8.3 magnitude Samoan quake occurred, about 56 earthquakes occurred in the deep trenches of the Samoa, Fiji, Tonga triangle. Many of these quakes were so deep that we would not have felt them.

Every day, the tectonic plates of the Pacific move. And every day earthquakes are recorded in the mountains under the sea around us. Experts say that where an undersea earthquake happens in a "subduction zone", which is where one tectonic plate is being pushed down below another, a tsunami can occur. Indeed, this is the explanation that has been offered for the deadly tsunami that hit parts of the two Samoas and Tonga. In fact, experts says that where the earthquakes happen below the sea but not too deep, we can expect more tsunamis to occur.

This should be a wake-up call for all of us. We cannot afford to have "malua fever" (act slowly) or be "madua" (embarrassed) about issues to do with safety after earthquakes. And we cannot afford to let our children think that such things are to be laughed at. Many lives have been lost as a result of earthquakes and the resulting tsunami over the past few days. This is certainly no laughing matter.

Experts say the most forceful impact of the Samoan tsunami was felt in Samoa and Tonga because of how the sea-floor was deformed after the earthquake and movement of the tectonic plates on that day.

The size and pattern of the tsunami depends on the amount and orientation of that sea-floor deformation. It is for this reason that none of us can afford to take our safety for granted. It could have easily been us.

Experts have warned that people who live near faults capable of producing earthquakes which can trigger tsunamis must learn to self-evacuate. They recommend that any teaching on what to do during times of emergency start with the principle that we not wait around. Given the geology of the environment in which we live, we cannot afford to take such advice lightly. A geophysical and climate hazards professor has warned that we are yet to take heed of the lessons of the Christmas 2004 tsunami disaster.

The lesson is this: Whenever the ground shakes or the sea recedes, we must self-evacuate. Do not wait around for a warning siren. Do not wait around for your uncle's phone call. Do not wait around for the authorities to tell you that something is wrong.

This is something that we must teach our children, friends and families. It could be the difference between life and death.

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