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Wednesday, February 09, 2005



The South Asian earthquake of 26 December 2004, the largest in the last 40 years and fifth largest since 1900, registering 9 on the Richterscale, and the tsunami that followed it, caused a disaster leading tothe deaths of more than 220,000 people. 1,000 square-kilometre faults that appeared as the result of the movement of great underground platesand the enormous energy created by land masses changing place combinedwith the great energy occurring in the oceans to create tsunamis. The tsunamis struck the South Asian countries of Indonesia, Sri Lanka,India, Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Maldives and theSeychelles, and even the coast of the African country of Somalia, some 5,000 kilometres away. The word "tsunami," meaning harbour wave in Japanese, became part of the languages of the world in the aftermath of the 15 June, 1896, Great Meiji Tsunami that hit Japan and in which 21,000 people lost theirlives. In order to understand the tsunami, it is most important to distinguishthe tsunami from tides and waves formed by the wind. Winds blowing over the surface of the ocean set up a current limited to the upper layer ofthe sea by raising relatively small waves. For example; divers with air-bottles can easily dive down and reach still water. There may be waves of 30 metres or more in violent storms, but these do not set thedeep waters in motion. In addition, the speed of a normal wind wave is up to 20 km/hour, while one feature of the tsunami wave is that it travels at 750-800 km/hour. The tides move over the Earth twice in thecourse of a day and, just like tsunamis, can produce currents that reachdown to the sea bed. In contrast to genuine tidal waves, however, the source of tsunamis is not the gravitational force of the Moon and Sun. The tsunami represents a long-period sea wave that forms due to energypassing into the sea because of earthquakes, volcanic explosions and strata collapses connected to these in the ocean or sea bed, tectonicevents such as underwater plate slides, or meteor effects. When the ocean floor changes place at high speed, the whole mass of water aboveit is affected. What happens in the sea floor is reflected on the surface of the water, and the whole mass of water, down to a depth of 5,000-6,000 metres, joins in the wave motion. Consecutive swelling andfalling may cover an area of up to 10,000 square kilometres.Tsunamis Have No Effect in Open SeasIn the open ocean, tsunamis are not the enormous walls of water thatmost people would imagine; they are generally less than 1 metre high,with a wave length of around 1,000 kilometres. As can be seen from this,the wave surface is very slightly inclined (1 cm in 1 km). In deep and open ocean regions, these waves go unperceived, despite moving at the high speed of 500 to 800 km/hour, since they are masked by normalsurface waves. In order to better comprehend the speed of the wave, wemay say that it could compete with that of a Boeing 747 jet. A tsunamithat takes place in the open sea will not even be felt by any vessels.Tsunamis Depositing 100,000 Tons of Water on LandResearch has shown that rather than consisting of a single wave,tsunamis actually consist of a series of waves with a single centre,like a stone thrown into a swimming pool. The distance between twoconsecutive waves may be 500-650 kilometres. This means the tsunami cancross the ocean in a matter of hours. The tsunami only reveals itsenormous energy when it approaches the shore. Energy distributed in athick column of water becomes concentrated as that column increasinglycontracts and a rapid increase in the height of the surface wave can beobserved. Waves less than 60 cm high in open ocean waters lose speed asthey approach shallow waters, the distance between the waves decreases,and waves piling on top of others create the tsunami by forming a wallof water. These giant waves, that are generally 15 metres high andrarely exceed 30 metres, use enormous force against the shore theystrike with great speed, inflict serious damage, and cause considerableloss of life.The tsunami deposits more than 100,000 tons of water for every metre ofshoreline, with a hard-to-imagine destructive force. (The tsunami thatstruck Japan in July, 1993, the largest known tsunami ever, rose 30metres above sea level.) The first sign that a tsunami is approaching isusually not a wall of water, but the sudden retreat of the sea.Major Tsunamis in HistoryThe greatest recorded giant sea waves caused by earthquakes are listedas follows:The oldest known giant marine earthquake wave, called "tsunami" by theJapanese and "hungtao" by the Chinese, is that which took place in theeastern Mediterranean on 21 July, 365 AD and killed thousands of peoplein the Egyptian city of Alexandria.The Portuguese capital was destroyed in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1November, 1775. The Atlantic ocean wave, 6 metres high, devastated thePortuguese, Spanish and Moroccan coasts.27 August 1883: The Indonesian volcano Krakatoa erupted, and the tsunamithat washed over the Javan and Sumatran coasts killed 36,000 people. Thevolcanic eruption was so powerful that for many nights the sky shonewith red lava dust. 15 June 1896: The "Sanriku Tsunami" struck Japan. The 23 metre highgiant tsunami that swept over masses of people gathered together for areligious festival cost the lives of 26,000 people.17 December 1896: A tsunami destroyed part of the embankment of SantaBarbara in California, USA, and the main boulevard was flooded.31 January 1906: The Pacific Ocean earthquake wave destroyed part of thecity of Tumaco in Colombia, as well as all the houses on the coastbetween Rioverde in Ecuador and Micay in Colombia; 1,500 people died.1 April 1946: The tsunami that destroyed the Aleutian Scotch CapLighthouse with its crew of five, proceeded to Hilo in Hawaii, killing159 people.22 May 1960: An 11-metre high tsunami killed 1,000 people in Chile and61 in Hawaii. The giant wave crossed to the opposite shore of thePacific Ocean and rocked the Philippines and the Japanese island ofOkinawa.28 March 1964: The Alaskan "Good Friday" tsunami wiped three villagesoff the map with 107 people dead, and 15 in Oregon and California.16 August 1976: A Pacific tsunami cost the lives of 5,000 people in theMoro Gulf in the Philippines.17 July 1998: A tremor wave occurring in northern Papua New Guineakilled 2,313 people, destroyed 7 villages and left thousands homeless.26 December 2004: The 8.9 earthquake and giant wave that struck sixcountries in South-east Asia killed more than 156,000 people.Factors Increasing the Violence of TsunamisAccording to information provided by Dr. Walter C. Dudley, a professorof oceanography and the cofounder of the Pacific Tsunami Museum, nomatter what the force of the earthquake, movement on the sea floor isnecessary for a tsunami to appear. In other words, the greater thedislocation in the sea floor, the greater the mass of water it will setin motion, and this will increase the violence of the tsunami. Anotherfactor increasing tsunami force is the structure of the coast itstrikes: In addition to factors such as that coast being a gulf or cape,flat or inclined, the structure of that part of the coast that remainsunder water may increase the violence of killer waves.In another statement, in which he made it clear that the precautionstaken could not represent a definitive solution, Dudley said thatAmerica and Japan had established very advanced monitoring systems inthe Pacific Ocean, but that all these systems had a false alarm rate offifty percent!Signs of the End TimesNatural disasters, which cannot be prevented even with technologicalmeans or precautionary measures, show just how helpless mankind trulyis.From the 20th century, characterised as the "century of disasters," upto the present, there have been catastrophes such as earthquakes,volcanic eruptions, tornados, storms, typhoons, whirlwinds and floods,in addition to tsunamis, and these have inflicted terrible damage andcost the lives of millions of people. When one thinks about theseextraordinary phenomena, it can clearly be seen that they bear a closesimilarity to the natural phenomena revealed as indicating the firstperiod of the End Times. According to what is revealed in the hadiths, the End Times is a periodthat will come about close to doomsday, and when the moral values of theQur'an will be widespread among people. The first period of the EndTimes will be one when people will draw away from religious moralvalues, when wars will increase, and extraordinary natural phenomenawill be experienced. Indeed, in the hadiths eradicated cities and peoples wiped from thepages of history are reported as signs of the End Times. In thosehadiths dealing with the matter, our Prophet states:"The Hour (Last Day) will not be established until ... earthquakes willbe very frequent." (Bukhari)"Big phenomena will happen in his time." (Ibn Hajar Haytahami, Al-Qawlal-Mukhtasar fi'alamat al-Mahdi al-Muntazar, p. 27) There are two great hadiths before the day of Judgment ... and thenyears of earthquakes. (Narrated by Umm Salama (r.a.))"So many appalling incidents will occur in his time." (Imam Rabbani,Letters of Rabbani, 2/258) In the second period of the End Times, God will free people fromdegeneration and war by means of the Mahdi. At this time, known as theGolden Age, war and conflict will come to an end, the world will befilled with plenty, abundance and justice, and Islamic moral values willprevail on Earth and will be widely practiced. No such period has evertaken place before but, by God's leave, one will be experienced beforedoomsday. It is now awaiting the time appointed by God.Everything is under the control of God. Believers who know this truthand who have sincere faith in God submit to our Lord in the knowledgethat they are following their destiny. God has flawlessly arrangedeverything, down to the very finest detail, from the creation of theEarth up to the Day of Judgment. Everything is recorded in the book"Lawh-i Mahfuz." Everything has already taken place in a single instantin the sight of God, Who is not bound by time or space, and the time andplace of every event has been determined. This fact is expressed thus ina verse: "Every communication has its time, and you will certainly cometo know." (Qur'an, 6:67)


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