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Emerging Tsunami threats in the region SL could be at risk – Dr. Wickramaratne

Emerging Tsunami threats in the region SL could be at risk – Dr. Wickramaratne

Despite Sri Lanka’s high level tsunami vigilance, the country might be at a risk of emerging threats in the region that have gone unnoticed and due to the lack of deep seatsunami detecting buoys that send out alerts of incoming tsunami waves.


Senior Engineering Manager (Research and Development) of the Lanka Hydraulic Institute Ltd. (LHI), Dr. Sanjeewa Wickramaratne told......Ceylon Today, that the number of tsunami buoys in the offshore Eastern region— between Sri Lanka and Indonesia—is considerably less compared to other areas. Reasons being that buoys are too expensive—one buoy costs approximately USD 250,000—and requires annual maintenance worth USD 300,000 approximately.

USD 25,000 is incurred for a single trip to revive a failed buoy, he said. Deep sea tsunami detecting buoys are one versatile method in tsunami wave detection. These buoys have the ability to feel the earthquake that can cause a potential tsunami, as well as the subsequent wave. The buoys have a direct satellite link to communicate and alert the warning centres on land. Prior to 2004, the tsunami warnings were issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre and the Japanese Meteorological Agency.


Things changed in 2011 where a regional tsunami warning centre was established, which introduced a decentralized mechanism of knowledge sharing and joint research between collaborating nations. Apart from the cost inefficiency, there are natural challenges to buoys as well; Wickramaratne noted that the maximum lifespan of a buoy which is installed in harsh marine environment is a maximum of four years.

“This is not cost efficient. The Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART), which has 39 buoys worldwide have only deployed two buoys in the Indonesian region; of the 39 DART units deployed worldwide in 2008, only an estimated 60 per cent were operational by 2009.


Thus, no new deployments of DART buoys are in the Indian Ocean since 2008, and the void is filled by six Indian buoys.” In his discourse in 2016, together with D. Suriyamudali (Research Engineer, LHI), J. Y. Ruwanpura {Professor and Vice Provost (International), University of Calgary, Canada} and S. C. Wirasinghe (Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering, University of Calgary, Canada), on recent developments in the International and Indian Ocean tsunami warning processes and its benefits to Sri Lanka, it was noted that tsunami buoy system in the Indian Ocean had not undergone major changes in terms of the number of deployments or technical upgrades apart from routine maintenance.


It also notes that as of May 2016, there were 12 tsunami buoys in the Indian Ocean out of which four were offline. The study notes that there is no protection for the west coast of Sri Lanka from the two DART units deployed off Pakistan as they are both offline. The east coast on the other hand is provided with eight buoys, albeit only two are geographically oriented to provide information; however one of the two remains offline. Read a comprehensive report inside.

(Ceylon Today)

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