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In the end, it was about 90 helpless minutes between the earthquake in Indonesia and the waves hitting India - because critical technology was lacking - that made all the difference to those affected by Sunday's killer tsunami. In the aftermath of that crucial hour and a half, it's almost criminal to hear the government griping about the "high costs" of joining the tsunami warning system.
According to Charles McCreery, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's center in Honolulu, "Most of those people could have been saved if they had a tsunami warning system in place or tide gauges," he said. "And I think this will be a lesson to them," he said.
It's estimated that joining the tsunami warning system would cost around Rs 1,000 crore. While that does seem steep, contrasting that with the human and economic costs of the tsunami paints a different picture altogether - almost 11,000 priceless human lives, estimates of 30,000 missing, and millions displaced. The economic cost to business alone is estimated at Rs 2,000 crore.
TOI's report on Monday quoted the Union home secretary saying that lack of knowledge on the tsunami was to be blamed for the disaster, claiming it was the first time ever that tsunami had hit the Indian coast, obviously in ignorance of 27 November, 1945, when an earthquake south of Karachi caused 12-metre tsunami to crash into the Maharashtra and Gujarat coasts.
When you have a basketful of apples, you wouldn't feel that bad about one or two falling off. Perhaps the abundance of human life in India reduces their cost.
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