The United Nations organized a drill that officials believe paints an accurate picture of what would happen if a major earthquake struck the Indian Ocean, and it isn’t good. The test simulated a quake of 9.0 magnitude in the Makran Trench. That’s the place where the Eurasian and Arabian tectonic plates meet, which is located off Pakistan’s coast.
Results of the test
The Express Tribune reports that the waves from such an earthquake would reach up to seven meters high and reach Karachi in only an hour and a half. Officials said the waves would be so powerful that they could wipe the entire city out. Karachi is home to approximately 18 million people.
At least 4,000 people died after the city was hit by a tsunami in 1945. If that happens again, not only would the death toll be much higher, but also Pakistan’s economy would be devastated. The port in Karachi is the nation’s main one and accounts for approximately 42% of Pakistan’s national gross domestic product.
More than 20 other nations around the Indian Ocean also took part in tsunami simulation tests this week.
Testing the early warning tsunami system
Today’s test comes after over 230,000 people died in 2004 after another tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Officials also conducted a simulation off the coast of Indonesia to test the early warning system. Experts say Karachi is especially vulnerable to a tsunami because there is a chance that another one could happen in the same area. Unfortunately, however, they just don’t know when it might happen.
If a tsunami does happen, Karachi’s Met Office would receive real time data from centers in India, Australia and Indonesia. The system would then sound an alarm if an alert is issued, and then experts would begin distributing the data to disaster management agencies.
Currently it’s unclear if Karachi officials have an evacuation plan in place in the event of a tsunami. Also it’s unknown if such a plan would even be effective in such a large city.