Being Prepared: 10 Years after Indonesian Earthquake and Tsunami

December 26 marks the 10th anniversary of the Indonesian earthquake and tsunami which killed more than a quarter of a million people in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and other countries surrounding the Indian Ocean.

A decade later, it’s perhaps surprising to read that weaknesses remain in the tsunami warning system across the region.

Yet maybe the best protection for residents living in tsunami-vulnerable areas is to learn natural tsunami warning signals and which areas have the highest flood risk.

A gallery of tsunami protection lessons posted by Allianz cites three key signs from GeoHazards International’s Tsunami Preparedness Guidebook:

-Strong earthquake shaking, particularly shaking lasting longer than 30 seconds;
-Withdrawal of the sea to unusually low levels; and
-Loud roar from the ocean, similar to a jet airplane, explosion or sudden, intense rainfall.

Identifying evacuation routes — creating hazard and evacuation maps showing the quickest and safest routes to higher ground or other safe areas — is also a key recommendation. Allianz notes that it is critical to involve government and emergency responders when developing these maps.

Education and awareness among residents in tsunami-prone areas then, can play as important a role as instrument-based tsunami warning systems.

In addition to high mortality risk, earthquakes and tsunamis can cause significant insured property damages.

While insured losses from earthquakes and tsunamis amounted to just $45 million in 2013, this was far below the record $54 billion recorded in 2011, according to facts and statistics compiled by the I.I.I.

On March 11, 2011 a devastating tsunami hit the coast of northeast Japan, triggered by a powerful earthquake approximately 80 miles offshore. The quake and tsunami caused $35.7 billion in insured damages, according to Swiss Re.

Also, early in 2011, a powerful earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, resulting in $15.3 billion in insured losses.

The Japan and New Zealand quakes are among the 10 costliest world earthquakes and tsunamis, based on insured damages, according to Munich Re.

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