Scientists Defend Aborted Tsunami Warnings

People run for their lives during the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004After hundreds of thousands of people from Hawaii to Japan were forced to evacuate over the weekend, oceanographers have defended their decision to raise alert against a tsunami that never materialized. Despite admitting that they overstated the tsunami threat, scientists said the warnings were necessary to avoid a repeat of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people.

The warnings were raised after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake shook Chile on Saturday. The alerts caused panic among people living near the coasts. However, the prediction of a tsunami of catastrophic magnitude turned out to be false. The alerts, which were issued to about 53 nations and territories, were lifted by Sunday.

With the false alarms, scientists now fear that people might start to ignore future tsunami alerts. Dai Lin Wang of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said that they have to improve the accuracy of their warnings to maintain their credibility and prevent people from becoming complacent.