the Disillusioned kid: Tsunami, Part 2.
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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Tsunami, Part 2.

In response to my query about how the US military base on Diego Garcia was affected by Sunday's tsunami, the following comment was posted by an anonymous US service man:
Im on Diego Garcia, been here for two years now. The barracks in which I live is 50 feet from the breaking waves of the ocean, under normal conditions. During the Tsunami, the waves only increased in size about 1 foot, and tossed around coconuts like they were beach balls. Other than that, there was NOTHING out of the ordinary. We didnt even feel any tremors from the quake. I dont understand how the waves which started east of us, affected Africa which is west of us, yet, we didnt see or feel a thing. Strange. When I discussed this whith a friend, he said that some deep fault line to the east of us seperates us and buffered the effects of the tsunami. How true is this, I dont know. What I do know is that we are pretty lucky, since this isle is only 3 feet above sea level. Whew!
This article which I found via the Google News Alerts service provides more information:
Officials said the Diego Garcia Navy Support Facility, which houses about 1,700 military personnel and 1,500 civilian contractors, suffered no damage related to Sunday?s earthquake and ensuing tsunamis.

Personnel at the facility?s billeting office contacted by Stars and Stripes on Monday reported no unusual activity or problems over the weekend.

Diego Garcia, the southernmost island in the Chagos Archipelago, sits about 1,000 miles south of India and roughly 2,000 miles from the earthquake?s epicenter.

But officials in Somalia, whose coast is nearly 3,000 from the earthquake?s center, reported more than 100 deaths in coastal areas as a result of tidal waves.

Carolyn Bell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Geological Survey, said even though an earthquake like Sunday?s will radiate destructive waves in all directions, the damage caused by the water differs greatly depending on the undersea topography.

She speculated that the numerous coral reefs may have dissipated some of the waves? impact on the British-owned island, resulting in only a slightly higher tide that residents might not necessarily notice.

She said residents of coastal areas in Australia reported no effects from the earthquake, even though researchers know the sea levels there rose several feet.

Diego Garcia is a horseshoe-shaped island about 39 miles long, surrounded by coral reefs on all sides. Its highest point is only 22 feet above sea level.

Both Naval and Air Force personnel are stationed on the island. The facility was used to support and launch strikes against Iraq in the first Gulf War, and was used for strikes against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, and again in 2003 for strikes in Iraq.

The Navy has eight ships active in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and officials said none reported any damage from Sunday?s disaster.
The US has begun taking steps to help in aid efforts. Three P3 Orion aircraft (very possibly from Diego Garcia where a number of these aircraft are based) have been deployed in Thailand to help in survey work, although they won't engage directly in search and rescue operations. US officials are also considering cargo flights to affected areas and there is a possibility of military transport planes being used to return American tourists to the States. I have to agree with remarks by Troy in the comments section of the Killing Train that "this is exactly what our military forces should be used for. I've often said that our military's primary training should be in emergency response and search & rescue. Any defence training should be secondary to that." This is where you really can win people's "hearts and minds," not on the battlefield.

Anybody who wants to donate money to help those affected can do so here by selecting "International Response Fund" or at one of these organisations (links courtesy of The Head Heeb).

Update: Go here for "news and information about resources, aid, donations and volunteer efforts" and here for some perceptive thoughts placing the disaster in the wider political context.

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