It looks like the Bay of Bengal could be the victim of the next major tsunami. A report published in the Nature journal today suggests that there is “compelling evidence” for tsunami-triggering earthquake activity in the region, north of the area where 2004’s tsunami hit.
Geologists say the warning should be taken seriously.
The Bay of Bengal is a densely populated area, and a large-scale natural disaster could put more than a million people at risk. After the shocking earthquake off the Sumatran coast that killed and injured thousands of people, devastating whole communities, experts believe that it is important that disaster provisions are put in place to ensure that effective aid is available immediately in any comparable scenario.
The Indian/Australian tectonic plate meets the Eurasian plate at a fault line along the coasts of south east Asia. The 2004 tsunami-generating earthquake was caused by a “subduction zone” created when one plate began to burrow underneath the other.
Phil Cummins, lead author on the report, thinks that previous studies have been wrong in overlooking tectonic activity north of the 2004 epicentre: “Although these GPS measurements are sparse, these show that there is active deformation near the Myanmar coast that is consistent with a locked thrust-fault offshore, which is the type needed to generate tsunami.”
The area suffered an earthquake in 1762 which he believes would have measured 8.8 on the Richter scale (the 2004 tsunami was generated by an earthquake of magnitude 9.2). Cummins comments that another such earthquake “would generate a large tsunami that could have a pronounced impact on the Chittagong coast and the Ganges delta. The latter region is home to 60 million people living within just 10m of sea level.”
Professor Richard Arculus, from Australian National University comments “Phil Cummins’ warnings should be taken very seriously. A few months before the devastating earthquake and accompanying tsunami triggered off northern Sumatra in late 2004, Phil Cummins…warned that countries bordering the Indian Ocean, including the northern coast of Australia, were at significant risk, and the lack of a tsunami warning system analogous to that deployed in the Pacific was a serious issue. His credibility with respect to tsunamigenic earthquakes is established.”
Top scientist Sir David King commented that the 2004 tsunami disaster underlined the threat posed by climate change. “We need to prepare ourselves against these increased impacts.”
Sources include: Nature
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