The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Floods here to stay, say scientists

Port Blair, Jan. 12: Water rushing into homes in low-lying areas may become a permanent feature of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands post-December 26, feel scientists who have flocked to the tsunami-struck region.

Several teams are currently working around the archipelago to ascertain the exact changes that have occurred to its position and elevation. One is from the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS), based in Thiruvananthapuram, a state government agency that has been collecting GPS data in this area for the past three years.

A GPS receiver records satellite signals from certain points. If the new readings are compared with the previous ones, taken in 2002 through 2004, the 'precise vertical and horizontal displacement' will be confirmed, explains geologist C.P. Rajendran.

The scientists have 'pre-seismic strain data', which will also help understand the nature of the earthquake and its aftermath.

Port Blair has gone down by one metre, said Rajendran, which would explain why Tuesday night's high tide left areas of the town inundated. 'Parts of the Little Andaman and Sentinel Islands may have gone up,' he added.

The team, which is travelling to Car Nicobar later this week, will be in good company. Scientists from the National Geophysics Research Institute, Hyderabad, have also left for the southern islands.

The Geological Society of India, the Geomagnetism Institute from Mumbai and the Indian Meteorological Department are also in the process of remapping the islands.

CESS' studies over the past few years prompted Rajendran to observe in a paper published in Current Science, April 10, 2003, that 'the lack of a good database on the effect of tsunami waves, to which not only the coast of Andaman-Nicobar is exposed, but also the eastern coast of India ' a threat that is generally underestimated' ' could be 'an issue' in future.

'Lack of experience could be the reason the tsunami threat was overlooked,' he noted.

While the islands and the eastern Indian coast did experience mild tsunamis in the 1881 and 1941 quakes in this region, nothing of this magnitude has ever been recorded. While the scientist believes another big seismic episode is unlikely, mild aftershocks could continue for as long as a year.

The institute will take a couple of months to compile and analyse the data, which will reveal what kind of changes have occurred in the earth's crust, and also hopefully better the understanding on how earthquakes occur, and eventually help forecast future threats.

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