Earthquake preparations 'a disgrace', says seismologist
The lack of earthquake planning by the international community is a "disgrace", a leading seismologist has said.
Professor John McCloskey said that governments must prepare for quakes, rather than act after the event.
The University of Ulster expert led the analysis of the quake that started the Indian Ocean 2004 tsunami.
"It is an international disgrace that we appear not to have made the smallest progress in preparation," he said.
"The 'international community' is very good at preparing for war but has failed completely to prepare to help the poor, who are always the ones to suffer in these events.
"If we want to claim to be civilised we need to ensure that we never see these scenes again."
In a letter to the journal Nature Geoscience he and his team warn that a huge wave-generating quake capable of killing as many people as in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami could strike off the Indonesian island of Sumatra, with the city of Padang in the path of destruction.
The danger comes from a relentless increase in pressure over the last 200 years on a section of the Sunda Trench, one of the world's most notorious earthquake zones, which runs parallel to the western Sumatra coast.
This section, named after the Mentawai islands, "is near failure," the letter warned.
Professor McCloskey said that governments were "refusing the accept the inevitable".
"Earthquakes happen, they kill people, they will kill more and more people if we don't organise ourselves properly," he said.
He said the earthquake which rocked Padang, western Sumatra in September last year killing more than 1,000 people was not the "great earthquake" scientists were waiting for but it may have made the next massive earthquake more likely.
Professor McCloskey is the head of the Geophysics Research Group at the UoU's Environmental Sciences Research Institute.
He said that while earthquake prediction was "as far off as ever" all the indicators are pointed to western Sumatra as a massive quake location.
"Scientists cannot forecast the exact size of the earthquake but in this case there is complete agreement that it will be very strong, probably bigger than magnitude 8.5, dwarfing the energy release in the Haitian quake," he said.
"We also cannot say for sure what size the tsunami will be but it has the potential to be very destructive - maybe even worse than 2004.
"But the future need not look like Haiti. We know this earthquake is coming and we might have years or even decades to prepare.
"Given the unfolding scenes of carnage following the Haiti earthquake and the completely inadequate speed of the international response, the responsibility on the Indonesian government, the international community and the international NGOs is enormous.
"We must work urgently to prepare for this earthquake if we are not to witness again the awful scenes of children dying for want of a few stitches or a cast for a broken leg."