Studying ancient folklore on tsunamis can help lower death toll in future disasters

December 25th, 2007 - 12:16 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec 25 (ANI): A new research has suggested that studying ancient tsunamis could help to save lives in the event of another disaster like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Conducted by Simon Day, a visiting professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his colleagues, the research specially takes into consideration a tsunami that struck northern Papa New Guinea in 1930.

Though the tsunami that struck the coasts of India, Indonesia and Thailand on December 26, 2004, caused very high mortality in the affected regions, the 1930 tsunami caused a fraction of deaths comparably.

According to a report in LiveScience, the figures speak for themselves.

The 2004 tsunami had anywhere from 10 to 90 percent of local populations being killed, with a region-wide death toll estimated to exceed 200,000. On the other hand, the disaster in 1930 had only 0.1 percent to 1 percent of the coastal population being killed.

These facts make studying tsunamis as old as the 1930 one, all the more significant, as the reasons for the lower death toll can be determined after proper analysis.

The key to this lower death toll were stories of tsunamis that had been passed down across the generations to the area residents, said tsunami researcher Simon Day, who has been researching evidence of ancient tsunamis in Papua New Guinea.

“Oral traditions are a very efficient means of tsunami education,” he added.

When Day and his colleagues were searching for evidence of past giant tsunamis in Papa New Guinea, the local people told them of stories of past tsunamis that had been passed down across generations of people who lived on the island hundreds of years ago.

“It became apparent that oral traditions were going back 500 years,” Day told LiveScience. “The stories contained information about how to recognize a tsunami was about to come, such as falling sea levels, and told how people should take action. Thats the reason why casualties in 1930 were so low,” he added.

In contrast, many people in Thailand in 2004 did not recognize the warning signs of the tsunami and did not know to seek refuge inland.

This difference is likely due to higher immigrant population in the area with no indigenous knowledge of tsunamis, like that that the people of Papua New Guinea possess, said Day.

A coordinated effort to spread these stories to vulnerable populations could reduce deaths in the event of another catastrophic tsunami, such as the Indian Ocean disaster, he added. (ANI)

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