Why There Was No Warning<br/> The science–and culture–of tsunami “hazard mitigation.” <br/> BY COSTAS SYNOLAKIS

Some highlights:

The response of local residents and tourists, however, was unfamiliar, at least to tsunami field scientists for post-1990s tsunamis. In one report, swimmers felt the current associated with the leading depression wave approaching the beach, yet hesitated about getting out of the water because of the “noise” and the fear that there was an earthquake and they would be safer away from buildings. They had to be told by tourists from Japan–a land where an understanding of tsunamis is now almost hard-wired in the genes–to run to high ground. In another report, vacationers spending the day on Phi Phi were taken back to Phuket one hour after the event started. In many cases tsunami waves persist for several hours, and the transport was nothing less than grossly irresponsible.

I love that. Everyone freezes like a deer in headlights, and the Japanese are all like, “What are you doing, you idiots?! Get the hell out of here!”

Contrast these reactions with what happened in Vanuatu, in 1999. On Pentecost Island, a rather pristine enclave with no electricity or running water, the locals watch television once a week, when a pickup truck with a satellite dish, a VCR and a TV stops by each village. When the International Tsunami Survey Team visited days after the tsunami, they heard that the residents had watched a Unesco video prepared the year before, in the aftermath of the 1998 Papua New Guinea tsunami disaster. When they felt the ground shake during the 1999 earthquake, they ran to a hill nearby. The tsunami swept through, razing the village to the ground. Out of 500 people, only three died, and all three had been unable to run like the others. The tsunami had hit at night.

Goes to show a little education goes a long way. Anyway, read the whole thing.