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p 2 - Killer wave
UNESCO and NASA strengthen ties
Five nano-giants celebrated
Scientific advisory body for CBD mooted
Shipment for Iraqi universities
Four young scientists on why their opinions should be
Controlling malaria, the vampire of the technological
The knowledge that saved the sea gypsies
cost of playing the waiting game
Until 26 December, the World Conference on Disaster Reduction
was just another rendez-vous on the United Nations calendar.
On the first anniversary of the Bam tragedy, memories were
fading of the 6.5 magnitude earthquake which had destroyed
80% of the ancient city in 12 seconds.
Then, 23 days before the Kobe conference got under way on
18 January, an underwater earthquake in the Indian Ocean generated
the most destructive tsunami in living memory. Instantly,
languishing plans for a tsunami early warning sys-tem for
the Indian Ocean shot up the conference agenda. Within days,
UNESCO could count on the support of numerous organizations
and countries for the new warning system, the same one UNESCO
had first proposed several years earlier. Given that the last
ocean-wide tsunami in the Indian Ocean went back to 1883,
the system had not been considered a priority; not, that is,
until last Decembers earthquake and tsunami killed quarter
of a million people in a single day.
The tsunami early warning system for the Indian Ocean should
be in place by 2007. In this issue, we look at what the new
system will entail and at progress thus far.
Meanwhile, in Bam, reconstruction is progressing slowly. The
Iranian authori-ties have reiterated their intention to ensure
that seismic building codes are observed. This should make
the new structures as resilient to earthquakes as those of
Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu (Japan), which suffered an
earthquake of mag-nitude 7 as recently as 19 March. More than
26,000 people were killed in Bam; one person in Fukuoka. As
Charles Richter, inventor of the scale of earthquake magnitude
measurement, puts it, Earthquakes dont kill people,
We may not be able to predict natural hazards but we do know
how to minimize loss of life and property, through building
codes, zoning, early warning systems and other forms of disaster
preparedness and prevention. Yet, so often, the tempta-tion
is to wait until disaster strikes to act. We are like the
man with a hole in his roof who, when asked why he doesnt
have it repaired, answers, when its rain-ing,
the roof cannot be fixed; when it is not raining, there is
no need to.
Some may argue that prevention has a cost. They would be right.
It does. The cost of instigating the Indian Ocean tsunami
early warning system has been esti-mated at $3050 million.
But that is a drop in the ocean compared to the bill for recovery
from last Decembers megatsunami. And no amount of reconstruction
will bring back the dead.
Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences