Something remarkable happened on the island closest to the epicenter of the great Sumatra-Andaman earthquake last December: Only seven of the islands 78,000 inhabitants died. This is despite the fact tsunamis hit the island only eight minutes after the quake, despite the destruction of many Simuelue villages, and despite the lack of an official tsunami warning system and little in the way of telecommunications.
Why were the lives of Simuelue islanders spared when all around the Indian Ocean, coastal villages, towns, and cities hit by the tsunamis experienced near-total annihilation? The answer, says Humboldt State University geology professor Lori Dengler, is knowledge.
"The single most important lesson for anyone anywhere is that what you know can save your life and what you dont know can kill you," said Dengler, who was part of an International Tsunami Survey Team of scientists that visited the tsunami destruction zones in April. What she and others discovered in the western coast of Aceh province, Simuelue and the Nias Islands of Indonesia is that there are a number of vital lessons emergency planners and every human being can learn from the 26 December 2004 Indian Ocean catastrophe.
Ann Cairns | EurekAlert!
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