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Lessons from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami Topic of Public Forum


October 16, 2006

How coastal communities manage risks associated with major tsunamis is
an issue of global importance following the devastating 2004 Indian
Ocean tsunami that killed an estimated 200,000 people and caused
billions of dollars in damage in 11 nations. The issue also has
important implications for the general public on Cape Cod and in
coastal communities throughout the United States in managing other
types of natural disasters, such as hurricanes.

“Lessons from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami” will bring together a
distinguished group of speakers on the science of underwater
earthquakes and tsunamis, natural hazard management and response, and
regional planning. This first annual Elisabeth and Henry Morss Jr.
Colloquium at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will be
held on Tuesday, October 31, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Lillie Auditorium
in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  The event is free and open to the

“The 2004 tsunami was an international catastrophe,” said Dr. Jian Lin,
a senior scientist in the WHOI Geology and Geophysics Department and
co-convener of the first Morss Colloquium. “Scientists still know very
little about how underwater earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and
landslides trigger tsunamis. We need to learn everything we can from
the 2004 tsunami in order to progress toward more accurate forecasting
of future tsunamis.”

A generous gift from Elisabeth W. and Henry A. Morss, Jr. has enabled
the Institution to establish a fund to support public colloquia on
issues of global importance that are connected to human society and
involve science. “Lessons from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami” is
designed to expose WHOI staff and the public to key issues related to
coastal disaster management and planning, and to provide a forum for
WHOI researchers and engineers to hear and discuss users’ perspectives
on tsunami warning technologies. The colloquium will also promote
collaboration between natural and social scientists toward the
development of a sustainable hazard mitigation program for coastal
communities, and encourage closer communication between WHOI and the
United Nations, NOAA, and other agencies.

“Understanding how the science translates to public policy, and how
that policy translates into practice is critical,” said Dr. Di Jin, an
associate scientist in the WHOI Marine Policy Center and co-convener of
the Morss Colloquium. “Ocean scientists, disaster management experts
and regional land-use planners need to share their knowledge and work
together toward a sustainable hazard mitigation program.”

Speakers will include Dr. Stephen J. Atwood, UNICEF regional advisor
and recent director of tsunami operations in Indonesia, Dr. Philip R.
Berke, an environmental planner and professor and director of graduate
studies in city and regional planning at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Dr. Emile A. Okal, a professor of geology
and expert on tsunami and earthquake research at Northwestern

Dr. Atwood has been actively involved in emergency response activities
since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and was recently on special
assignment as Director of Emergency Operations for the tsunami recovery
effort in Indonesia. He advises the UNICEF Country Offices in the East
Asia and Pacific Region in the formulation and application of health,
nutrition, water, and sanitation policies. A graduate of Dartmouth
Medical School and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine who has
specialized in pediatrics, Dr. Atwood also represents UNICEF in global
and regional forums for programmatic and strategic collaboration in
health initiatives.

Dr. Berke’s current research projects address domestic and
international issues in the areas of land use planning, natural hazard
mitigation, and sustainable development. He has served as a consultant
on land use and environmental planning to state and local governments,
as a hazard mitigation specialist for the Federal Emergency Management
Agency, and as a consultant on disaster recovery to international
disaster relief organizations.

Dr. Okal has extensive field experience in post-tsunami investigation
and survey, including, most recently, as leader of two teams that
assessed the effects of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Madagascar and
Oman. In addition to authoring nearly 200 scientific publications, he
collaborated in the development of TREMORS, an automated distant
earthquake detection system that allows the estimation of tsunami risk
and is now deployed in Hawaii, Indonesia, and Chile.

A workshop on interactions between tsunamis and underwater geological
processes will be held in conjunction with the first Morss Colloquium
and includes invited talks, posters, and discussion sessions. It is
open to U.S. and international researchers, engineers, tsunami program
managers, and graduate students.