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Why the tsunami struck

Life-saving maps providing better evacuation routes in the event of another tsunami could be produced thanks to a group of St Andrews scientists exploring the causes and consequences of last year’s disaster.

Before memories fade further and perishable evidence disappears, a group of staff and students from the University’s School of Geography and Geosciences will combine hard science with community-based interviews to explore the tsunami’s characteristics and assess future risk.

The project will help people and organisations better manage sudden and intense environmental change and produce maps that local planners could use as a planning tool in rebuilding settlements, hotels and infrastructure. The maps could also be used to plan better evacuation routes and response plans.

The team, which has been awarded National Science Foundation funding along with scientists in other countries, will focus on the coastline of the Malay-Thai peninsula, arriving on site in May 2005.

Michael Bird, Professor and Chair in Environmental Change said, “We will be interviewing local leaders, teachers and retired officials in the communities affected and hope to produce a clearer record of environmental change in the area. Looking ahead, we will contribute to a better understanding of how local inhabitants respond to the challenges and, possibly, opportunities offered by catastrophic environmental change.”

Professor Bird continued, “The 2004 tsunami provides access to unique and perishable data which we can use to assess future risk and, ultimately, save lives. Evidence that indigenous communities proved more resilient to the effects of the disaster will also contain lessons that can assist planners in mitigating risks associated with future tsunami events. The research will involve several undergraduate and graduate students, allowing them to engage in hands-on scientific and social research which is critical to their development as the next generation of researchers and educators.”

The team also includes lecturer Dr Lisa Law, visiting fellow Dr Sue Dawson, PhD student Pedro Costa and Masters student Susan Cowie.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS – For more information, please call Professor Michael Bird on 01334 463928.

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information, please contact Claire Grainger, Press Officer – 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or cg24@st-andrews.ac.uk; Ref: press releases/michaelbird View the latest University news at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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