What Went Wrong in Samoa?

Thirty-four minutes after the earthquake that would cause last week’s Samoan tsunami, scientists had detected unusual water motions. People in Hawaii and California received warning and cleared its beaches. But Samoans received no adequate warning.

In an article on The Wall Street Journal website, Costas Synolakis, director of the University of Southern California’s Tsunami Research Center says governments aren’t doing enough to give people time to reach safe ground before a tsunami hits. He describes what went wrong in Samoa, including a combination of Mother Nature and geography and inadequate planning, funding and education.

A tsunami hits so fast, authorities cannot be there in time to guide people to safety, which is why just knowing how to recognize unusual water patterns can save an individual’s life. Synolakis attributes the relatively low (three) death toll from the 2007 Solomon Islands tsunami to the fact that people knew fast-retreating tides and ground shaking announced big waves.

“Unfortunately, the lesson that education saves lives has apparently been lost to emergency managers world-wide, including in Samoa,” he writes.

According to Synolakis, governments need better policies, better building codes and enforcement, better technology (such as tsunamographs), and they need to ask for help sooner.

To read the article, click here:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704471504574451934098479964. html?mod=googlenews_wsj