AS MANY as 5000 Americans are still unaccounted for a week after the world's deadliest tsunami pounded a dozen countries across the Indian Ocean, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said today.
Mr Powell told reporters aboard his plane en route to Bangkok that the confirmed toll of Americans still stood at 15 with a defence department worker listed as missing.
"The number of private citizens or citizens unaccounted for still lingers around 4-5000," he said, adding the figure was based on phone calls from relatives or friends inquiring about their whereabouts.
Mr Powell said this did not mean they were necessarily casualties in the catastrophe.
But he added: "We can't ignore the very distinct possibility that there are Americans within this number who have lost their lives. We just don't know that".
Update (1/5):AP reports that the official count is 36 Americans dead, but an additional 3,500 are not accounted for. I have to wonder how many of those are missing (i.e. it's known they were at the scene but they cannot be found, and should therefore, 10 days later, be presumed to be dead) and how many are truly unaccounted for (they were in the country at the time but may have gotten out, etc.).
The devastating tsunamis created Dec. 26 by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake that killed as many as 150,000 people on the shores of the Indian Ocean caught the world off guard, including most tsunami experts.
"Here is something that we didn't foresee," said Dr. Costas E. Synolakis, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Southern California.
Dr. Synolakis said that experts would now take a closer look at the Indian Ocean and that he expected that they would find geological evidence of earlier tsunamis, which would allow scientists to estimate how often they occur. "We're going to have a much better idea of what the hazard is," he said, "because right now we don't know."
Videos captured of the tsunami seemed to pale next to the cataclysmic imaginings of Hollywood movies, but "looking at the videos, you would be fooled," said Dr. Synolakis of U.S.C.
For one, those who tried to videotape more imposing waves might not have survived. But also, unlike an ordinary wave, which quickly dissipates and rolls back out, a tsunami is a long sheet of water. "Behind the wave is a change in sea level coming in," Dr. Synolakis said. "The wave is coming and coming and coming. A three- or four-meter tsunami can be quite devastating."
One cubic yard of water weighs nearly a ton, and tsunamis come ashore at speeds of about 30 miles an hour. An oncoming tsunami can hit a building with millions of pounds of force, said Dr. Peter E. Raad, a professor of mechanical engineering at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
"And that's before you put anything in the water," he said.
Trees, automobiles and pieces of concrete all become lethal projectiles as they are swept along by the rushing water.
Tsunamis caused by underwater landslides can be even more destructive. In 1998, seismologists were surprised when a modest magnitude 7.0 earthquake off Papua New Guinea was followed by a 30-foot-high tsunami that killed more than 2,100 people. The earthquake, it turned out, had caused nearly a cubic mile of sediment to give way.
Three-dimensional maps of the bottom of California's Monterey Bay show several sections that have given way - and others that have cracked and may collapse in the future. Some scientists have suggested that the outer edge of the East Coast's continental shelf is also prone to cave-ins.
Others, including Dr. Steven N. Ward of the University of California, Santa Cruz, have warned that the volcano Cumbre Vieja in the Canary Islands off northwestern Africa could be nearing one of its periodic collapses. As the volcano grows through eruptions, the sides become unstable and eventually fall into the ocean. During the last eruption in 1949, a two-mile-long crack opened up and one side of the volcano slid 10 feet.
"Geologically, we're getting close to the end," Dr. Ward said. "It's really the cycle of life for these volcanoes. They grow too big, they collapse."
In Dr. Ward's computer models, when Cumbre Vieja collapses - and that may not happen for hundreds of thousands of years - about 100 cubic miles of rock will slide into the ocean at speeds greater than 200 miles per hour, and the splash will generate tsunamis 300 feet high crashing into the northwestern coast of Africa. Waves 40 feet high will reach New York. Other scientists have pointed out that such catastrophic landslides are very rare - Cumbre Vieja last collapsed 500,000 years ago - and that there is no geologic evidence of such mega-tsunami in the past. They suggest that the landslides will not accelerate quickly enough to produce the waves Dr. Ward envisions.
Coincidentally, one of the cable channels on my system (The Science Channel, I believe, although it might have been The Discovery Channel) ran a program on the landslide-created mega-tsunami theory just a week or so before the Indian Ocean event.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
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Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.