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Scientist words ring true

Chennai, Dec. 26: As India mourned, a group of people at Madras University's Applied Geology department could barely hide their glee.

December 26, Sumatra, 03.54 degrees latitude and 097.17 degrees longitude ' a team of seismologists led by Dr N. Rajeshwara Rao and N. Venkatanathan had predicted. The forecast was near perfect.

Flaunting the relevant information downloaded from the site of the World Data Center for Seismology, Denver, Venkatanathan said the data put out by the US Geological Survey read: 'December 26, 2004, off the West Coast of Northern Sumatra, 03.298 degrees latitude and 095.779 degrees longitude.'

'We had predicted the earthquake in Sumatra as occurring at 6 am this morning, but it happened there at 6.29 am. And there was a 150 km difference in the distance from where we had predicted,' added Venkatanathan, whose recent prediction about an earthquake had kept most of Jorhat, Assam, on the roads early this month.

He said their earthquake prediction model could be fine-tuned if there was more actual data on the physical characteristics of an area from remote sensing satellite maps.

They went wide off the mark when it came to the magnitude of the quake. They didn't expect the Sumatra tremors to be stronger that 7 on the Richter scale, but they were recorded at 8.9. Therefore, the tremors were felt as far as Chennai, some 1,700 km away, 'disturbing the total tectonic setting', said Venkatanathan.

The researcher and his colleagues use a predictive model, based on the position and alignment of various planets with the earth. Four heavenly bodies ' Mercury, Venus, Sun and Moon ' had aligned with the Earth today, he said.

As the researchers rejoiced, some are speaking of celestial retribution. One contention going around is that the Gods are angry that the Kanchi seer has been jailed.

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