The tsunami focused minds for a short time, but already globally attention begins to wane. How much of the promised aid money from various governments around the world will really get through? And how much of it is merely being diverted from other aid programmes.
Much of the discussion of the disaster has focussed on a tsunami early warning system for the Indian Ocean. The recent 8.7Mag quake shows both the need for such a system, but also the problems. It shows that this area is perennially quake prone, but also that it is very difficult to know whether a quake will result in a tsunami. A variety of experts came on TV to ponder why there was no tsunami, and succeeded only in show how little we understand. Amongst the most preposterous statement was that an 8.7Mag quake was so weak to cause a tsunami. Nonsense. 8.7 is absolutely enormous, and tsunamis have resulted from lesser earthquakes than that. More probable is the depth, the direction of displacement of the ocean floor... but we have much to learn.
There are issues with too many false alerts, but these are surely outweighed by the failure to warn. But just as warning is not merely detection, and alerting governments, being prepared is not just about issuing warnings. It is also about getting the message to isolated communities, explaining the issues, and involving people in preparing their plans. This is slow painstaking work with real people at grass roots level. It is also about sustainable livelihoods, that are diverse and resilient that will hold up in bad times as well as good It requires funding. It requires donors, agencies and governments to have real commitment to it.