Beach sirens could save lives, say marine scientists

Updated: Mar 02, 2011, 11:43 AM IST

Panaji: If marine scientists from a top research body in the country have their way, the phrase `beach siren` will probably no longer inspire the imagery of a tanned beach body.

Experts at the Goa-based National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) are lobbying for all beaches in the country to be equipped with a beach siren mechanism whose shrill, blaring tweets could save thousands of lives in case of sea storms and tsunamis.

Anthony Joseph, an expert at the NIO`s marine instrumentation department, says as of today, there is no mechanism in coastal India to warn people living in these areas in case an actual tsunami were to strike.

"People on the beach, especially tourists, are not going to be sitting on the beach and watching TV; neither are they going to be listening to the radio. Worse still, some will be bathing in the sea. At least if there is a siren, people will be alerted and can listen to an announcer," Joseph told IANS. He has also researched and authored a book on the tsunami phenomenon.

"Also in India there are many coastal areas prone to storm surges where a beach siren warning mechanism could be very effective," he said, adding there was almost a two-hour gap between a tsunami striking the Andamans and the towering waves later assaulting the mainland Indian coastline which is around 5,700 km in length.

"These two hours can be effectively used to warn the people off the beaches by using beach sirens all along the coastline," Joseph said.

He said while the NIO started setting up a tsunami monitoring system way back in 2007, which has been giving them real-time updates about occurrences in the sea through 14 strategically placed monitoring stations, along the coastline and in the high seas, in the absence of a warning mechanism, there was still no way to save people along the coastline, in case the watery calamity were to strike at all.

"We strongly suggest the putting up of sirens on all beaches, especially those that tourists frequent. This is the best solution. If you broadcast it on TV or over the Radio, the people on the beach will not get it," Joseph said.

He cited how an effective warning system has in the past saved lives.

"In 2009, when cyclone Phyan struck, the administration authorities warned all fishermen not to venture out into the sea, whereas no such warning was given in Goa and as a result more than 60 fishermen went missing," he said.

Interestingly, while the installation of sirens along beaches was one of the foremost measures recommended by the United Nations and implemented so far by the governments of New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and others especially in tourist-frequented countries, it is yet to be implemented by the government of India.

In 2004, an earthquake in the Indian ocean and a subsequent tsunami - which are mammoth tidal waves - killed nearly 200,000 people living in the coastal regions of India, Sumatra, Sri Lanka, Thailand and other countries in the region.

IANS