Global Views
   Middle East & Africa
 Embassy News
 Arts & Living
 Travel & Hotel
 Medical Tourism New
 Letters to Editor
 Photo Gallery
 News Media Link
 TV Schedule Link
 News English
 Hospitals & Clinics
 Flea Market
 Moving & Packaging
 Religious Service
 Korean Classes
 Korean Weather
 Real Estate
 Home Stay
 Room Mate
 English Teaching
 Job Offered/Wanted
 Hotel Lounge
 Foreign Exchanges
 Korean Stock
 Business Center
 PR & Ads
 Arts & Performances
 Restaurants & Bars
 Tour & Travel
 Shopping Guide
 Foreign Missions
 Community Groups
 Foreign Workers
 Useful Services
 ST Banner Exchange
India Could Have Prevented Tsunami Deaths
By Gautaman Bhaskaran
South Asia Editor
Tsunami Fury — A survivor tries to salvage whatever is left of his stall at a commercial area in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province Dec. 31, 2004 in northwest Indonesia, following Sunday's devastating earthquake-triggered Tsunami that killed some 80,000 people in the country. Courtesy AP

In India, very few people have heard the word Tsunami, let alone even remotely understand what these harbour waves could do. Till that Sunday morning — Dec. 26, 2004 — hardly anybody had the vaguest of inclination of the destructive ability of the sea. Of course, one has read about the angry earth in geographic and other nature magazines. But beyond this, there was little knowledge what a tsunami could do on India's long coasts.

I had been to the beach that Sunday morning, had seen a bright sun, clear blue skies and a deceptively calm ocean. The Bay of Bengal, on whose shores lie the southern Indian city of Madras, seemed so serenely calm that I could not imagine that a quarter of an hour later, waves would roar in anger and rush inland in a dance of death and destruction.

I came away before the tsunami struck. Just 15 minutes before. But not many others, who lingered on feeling the sand and the breeze. After all, it was a Sunday morning and there was no pressure to get home and to get to work.

Among these many others, there were children, and I distinctly remember a group of boys playing cricket on the sand. These little boys, I am told, were swallowed by the giant waves that threatened to even ravage some of the historic buildings on Madras' sea front.

Tsunami Fury — An aerial view of houses that were destroyed by tsunami, and the fishing boats that were salvaged from the debris, at a fishermens colony at Nagappattinam, Tamil Nadu, Jan. 2, 2005. Courtesy AP

There were others, elderly couples, food vendors and fishermen, who died in Madras, adding up to the 10,000 mostly women and children who were killed in India that black Sunday. We still have about 5,000 people missing in a tragedy that has but few parallels in history.

The question that now disturbs the government and angers others is whether at all the toll could have been minimized. Maybe.

To begin with, tsunami may not have been a regular feature on India's shorelines, but recorded history refers to such calamities. In ancient India, a whole prosperous city, Kaveripoompatinam (in southern India) is said to have been washed away by giant waves. Today, we have the ruins of that city. There have been other instances of Tsunami striking Indian shores in the 1800s and early 1900s.

In the early 1960s, a devastating cyclone/hurricane caused the sea to rise so enormously that a whole town in India's southernmost tip, Dhanushkodi, disappeared. A full train of students that was waiting just outside the station there was washed away, killing the passengers.

Courtesy Maps of India

So, the Indian administration knew what the sea was capable of wrecking. Yet, we now have updates on how the government chose to ignore advice and stay out of warning systems. The Director of the National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organization in Calcutta, Dr. G.N. Saha, said that his institute had tracked seven years ago the possible epicenter of the December 26 tsunami and the probable paths the killer waves would take.

He said that his team had mapped the "route" of the tsunami in the wake of the earthquake in Indonesia. "We had traced the road of the waves as they would travel to hit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as well as the southern Indian coast,"
he remarked the other day.

Yet, the Indian administration turned a blind eye to this prediction of sorts. Also, India decided to stay out of the Pacific Tsunami Warning System, which could have given adequate notice of the impending disaster. What was the reason for this? It was not technical. It was not even financial, but part of a larger ideology of self-reliance that India began to follow in the 1970s that later led to "scientific isolation."

Nehru's policy of internationalism and global cooperation disappeared after the country's first prime minister died in the early 1960s. New Delhi adopted a rather inward-looking approach that bordered on self-denial. Added to this was the bogey that politicians of that day raised, the bogey of "foreign hand," which resulted in deep suspicion of anything foreign. This prevented useful collaboration in important areas such as science and technology.

Tsunami Fury — Defence personnel walk near the debris of the Indian Air Force officer's colony which was destroyed by tsunami and killed more than 100 officers in Car Nicobar, in India's southeastern Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Jan. 2, 2005.
Courtesy AP

Thus, India did not become a member of the Pacific Tsunami Warning System. Even China, despite its problems with the world community, the U.S. in particular, was quick to join this system.

Well, India paid for this foolishness with such a frightening figure of casualty.

India must now realize that disaster management cannot be an isolated effort. Any warning of a natural catastrophe cannot be complete or effective without the cooperation of the international body of experts.

Sadly, India has not even done much to establish a warning framework in the Indian Ocean, which New Delhi terms its own. This may well be the first step, where India can with its vast pool of scientists and scientific knowledge set up a good system to predict the fury of nature and to try and keep down the damage to life and property by timely action. The system should also be geared to manage the consequences of such a crisis.

However, there is still a lingering doubt in my mind about India's intentions to accept help. New Delhi has refused aid, and one feels that this can be to prove that it is a power to reckon with. It may be, but to reject scientific tips or refuse to be part of warning systems indicates a misplaced sense of superiority. India must learn the humility of not just sharing its own scientific information, but also learning from those who know better.

Related Articles
    Tiger Man Mike Pandey
    Egypt's First Edition of El Gouna Film ...
    El Gouna Film Festival Opens with Sheikh ...
    New Egypt's El Gouna Film Festival to Add ...
    India Stands Shamed after Racial Attacks near ...
    The Dashing Pedro Almodovar to Chair Cannes ...
    Korean Cinema Comes to Chennai in India
    The Horror of Custodial Death
    Modi Is the Man We Need in India
    Mumbai’s Child King
    The Cocktail at Cannes
    Cannes Film Fest Begins on a Hollywood Note
    Mumbai Terrorized Again
    Venice Lines Up Impressive Jury
    Cannes Film Fest Begins on a Delightful Note
    No Indian Movie at the Festival
    Meaningless Film Censorship
    This Bloody Life!
    Mumbai and Pusan Film Fest Establish Ties
    On Road, in Rage
    India Picks Wrong Films for Oscars
    Robert De Niro to Head Cannes Film Fest Jury
    Someone Killed Jessica, But of Course!
    Middle Eastern Cinema Hits Hard
    Dubai Film Fest Opener
    Dubai Film Fest to Unravel Diverse Selection
    Indian Police Cut Corners to Tackle Crime
    Goa Festival Not God's Own
    "West Is West" Sets IFFI Sailing
    Fine Cinema at the Coming Dubai Film Festival
    "The King's Speech" to Set the Fest Rolling
    Abu Dhabi Film Festival a Fantastic Mix of ...
    "Adoor Gopalakrishnan: A Life in Cinema" ...
    The Venetian Storm
    Frieda's Venice
    Jafar Panahi's Music Soothes Souls
    "Black Swan" Opens Venice Festival
    Festival to Bounce with Youthful Energy
    Shame and Scandal Plague Commonwealth Games
    Child Needs Compassion, Not Cane
    A Beast Called Beauty
    Adoor Gopalakrishnan: A Life in Cinema
    Bhopal Gas Tragedy: A Crime Called Bhopal
    Honour Killings Are India's Shame
    Cannes Film Festival And Poetry
    Cannes More Art Than Glamour This Time
    An Indian Pilgrimage to Cannes
    Maoist Rebellion in India
    Asians to Carry the Torch at Cannes
    Cannes Film Festival and Probables
    "Robin Hood" to Open Cannes Film Festival
    Persecution of Artists
    The Only Two Real Races This Year
    Curry Bashing in Australia
    US Director Tim Burton to Lead Cannes Jury
    India's Car Boom Creates Its Own Chaos
    Making Idiots Out of Men
    Indian Girls Find Paris Hilton’s Shoes Too Hot
    Mexican Film Wins Top Prize at Marrakech
    Ben Kingsley Hopes to Be an Envoy for Cinema
    Movie Director Hopes Obama Would Solve the ...
    Nandita Das on Marrakech Jury
    A Decaying Film Festival
    Marrakech Festival a Boon for Local Cinema
    Panorama Selection Questionable
    IFFI to Open on a Note of Visual Lyricism
    South Korea to Be Focus at the Film Fest
    Dalai Lama’s Tawang Visit Vexes Beijing
    Why Mumbai Film Fest Scores over Goa
    Mumbai’s Young Movie Critics Ready to Tear ...
    India Is Still Hungry for Food
    Honor Killing through Lens at Mumbai Festival
    11th Mumbai Film Festival to Open with Matt ...
    Film Festival to Showcase Some Gems
    Can India Host 2010 Commonwealth Games?
    A New Irritant in India-China Ties
    The Venetian Sorrow
    The Tiger War
    Israeli War Film Wins Venice’s Top Golden Lion
    Politicians Livid over Festival Movie
    "Bad Lieutenant" Creates Bad Blood between Two ...
    Clooney and Damon Star Attractions at Venice
    Muslim Bashing Must End
    Mumbai Film Festival Prizes to Be among the ...
    An Indian Juror in De Sica Land
    India's Gays Can Now Love without Fear
    Moore's "Capitalism," 70 Other Films to ...
    An Indian Summer at the Lagoon City
    Festival May Be Strong on European Fare
    A Tamil Film with a Difference
    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: But ...
    India Is Racist Too
    Hollywood Bungles in Bollywood
    The Tragic Tale of the Indian Tiger
    Cannes Jury Honors Chilling Tales
    Lars Von Trier’s Sex and Horror
    Gems and the Cannes Film Festival
    Market and the Cannes Film Festival
    Keats Poetry, Campion’s Reading
    Lou Ye’s Controversial Disaster
    Clash of Titans on the Croisette
    Sexy Sirens and Political Propagandists
    Is Sharmila Tagore the Right Choice for Cannes ...
    The Stars in Cannes’ Dark Skies
    Cannes Courts Controversy
    Indian Elections: A Circus of Villains
    Festival Unveils Lineup of Masters
    Beyond Bollywood’s Melodramatic Mishmash
    India's Infrastructure at Breaking Point
    Guessing the Festival Goodies
    Kate Winslet the New Face of Brilliance
    Tarantino’s ‘Basterds’ to Spit Fire at Fest
    Animated Film, Up, to Open Festival
    Smoking Screen
    Oscar-Rich Penelope Set to Master English
    Cannes Honours Clint Eastwood
    Renowned French Star to Chair Cannes Jury
    Fable of Mr Benjamin Button: Riveting Cinema
    The Mangalore Molest
    Aamir Khan Film Is a Bad Copy
    It May Well Be the End of Agony in Sri Lanka
    Woody Allen’s "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
    International Film Festival of India
    Mumbai Terror
    Marrakech Int'l Film Festival Has Grown
    Marrakech Int'l Film Festival
    Marrakech International Film Festival
    Shambled Secularism
    Benegal’s Sajjanpur
    Venice Festival Blues
    Venice under the Hollywood Spell ?
    A Riveting Movie on Islam's Crisis
    Venice Festival a Haven for World Premieres
    Pakistani Films Come to India, at Last!
    Tamil Super Hero Rises Again
    The Comic Fantasy
    The Smoking Screen!
    Bollywood and Beyond at Stuttgart
    New Film May Spell Hope for Bollywood
    Indian Cinema Feeds Deceit
    An Indian Film on an American Power Plant
    India Not At Cannes
    Cannes Line-Up
    Writer Taslima Nasreen Forced Out of India
    India Inspires World Fashion
    Mills & Boon
    "Jodhaa Akbar" Creates Controversy in India
    Sania Mirza Subject to Ridicule in Native India
    Sarkozy and Bruni Love Causes Moral Outrage
    India and the Oscars
    Marrakech International Film Festival Reviewed
    Paranoid Park
    Cannes 2007: Killings
    The Spy Case
    The Good and the Not So Good
    Bollywood Superman
    First Kashmiri Film in 20 Years
    Chinese Influence Seems Unstoppable
    Cannes Film Festival 2006: Minimalism, Too
    Cannes Fest Prizes
    Cannes Film Festival 2006: Great Delights
    The Da Vinci Code
    Missing Tigers
    The Despair of Tibetans
    Trilateral Stratagem To Slow China's Growth
    Sri Lanka Crisis
    Hollywood Movies Doing Well In India
    Peace Pipe
    Mangal Pandey: The Rising
    Honda Clash
    Bush-Manmohan Singh Pact
    Satyajit Ray, Still India's Most Noted Movie ...
    Ban on Cigarettes in India
    "Match Point" Excoriated by Britons
    Crisis In India’s Hindu Nationalist Party
    Manmohan Singh’s One Year
    58th Cannes International Film Festival Begins
    Indo-Pakistan Cricket Diplomacy
    U.S. Visa Refusal
    The 7th Deauville Asian Film Festival Closes
    Seedy Film Journalism
    Indian Tigers Butchered in Broad Daylight
    No Oscar for Scorsese, Yet Again
    Nepal in Turmoil As King Sacks PM Deuba
    History Repeats in Struggle for Free Press
    Argue over Freedom on Internet
    "City of Gold" Dubai Stands like Oasis in ...
    Towards a Solution to the Kashmir Problem
    India & China Rising
    Bush Victory and India
    Indian Robinhood
    After 9/11, World Links Muslim with Violence
    India's Great Heritage Taj Mahal in Danger
    "Kashmir": A Never Ending Thorny Issue
    The Village -- A Silly Joke
    Jakarta Bombing Aimed at Aussie ...
    Millions of Indians Go to Bed Hungry
    Sri Lanka's Ethnic War Knows No End
    Over 600 Tibetan Monks, Nuns Should Be Freed
    India's Schoolgirl Killer Hanged in Controversy
    3 Kidnapped Indians Endure Agonizing Torture
    Musharraf's Sets Deadline on Kashmir
    Usefulness of Nepalese Monarchy in Question
    Temple of Learning Turns into Grave of Death
    AIDS Keeps Threatening the Poor in Asia, Africa
    Fearful of Dowry Parents Kill Newborn Girls
    Hot Discussion on Death Penalty in India
    India's Flag of Democracy Kept Unfurled
    Politics Dominates Cannes Int'l Film Festival
    Intolerance Grows before India General Election
    Fears of Strife Continue in Sri Lanka
    Torture, Rape Occur in Indian Classroom
    World Leaders Must Take Stand against Nukes
    India's Cities Prosper as Country Folk Starve
    India, Pakistan Form Friendly Ties
    Cell Phones Bring Joy, Sorrow World Over

Other Articles by Gautaman Bhaskaran
Tiger Man Mike Pandey
Egypt's First Edition of El Gouna Film ...
El Gouna Film Festival Opens with Sheikh ...
New Egypt's El Gouna Film Festival to Add ...
India Stands Shamed after Racial Attacks ...

Gautaman Bhaskaran is a veteran film critic and writer who has covered Cannes and other major international festivals, like Venice, Berlin, Montreal, Melbourne, and Fukuoka over the past two decades. He has been to Cannes alone for 15 years. He has worked in two of India’s leading English newspapers, The Hindu and The Statesman, and is now completing an authorized biography of India’s auteur-director, Adoor Gopalakrishnan. Penguin International will publish the book, whose research was funded by Ford Foundation.






The Seoul Times, Shinheung-ro 36ga-gil 24-4, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea 04337 (ZC)
Office: 82-10-6606-6188
Copyrights 2000 The Seoul Times Company  ST Banner Exchange