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UTC Students raising money for tsunami relief

Professor to discuss Tsunamis and the Early Warning System

In the aftermath of tsunami devastation in 12 Asian countries, UTC students are beginning a campaign to assist a voluntary, nongovernmental organization in Sri Lanka with relief funding, and a geology professor will examine tsunamis and a proposed early warning system. 

The UTC Committee for Tsunami Relief will unite a student effort with the greater Chattanooga community to raise funds for the Sri Lanken organization Sarvodaya. Sarvodaya aims to reconstruct the physical, emotional, and psychological health of tsunami orphans.Senator Bill Frist has called Sarvodaya “one of the most highly regarded indigenous nongovernmental organizations in Sri Lanka.”

UTC’s kickoff fundraiser attempts to involve all 8,689 students at UTC by encouraging each one to give $1 for tsunami relief from Tuesday, February 1 - Thursday, February 3. The Blue String Campaign will offer donors a blue string to wear around their wrists, a gesture loosely based on a Sri Lanken custom. Donors wear the strings to acknowledge that they will not forget the victims of the disaster.

Allison Williams, a UTC sophomore, serves as fund-raising coordinator. “The whole idea behind the dollar per person was to get everybody involved at the same level, because people over there would have done the same for us. They were completely devastated and I think it’s the least we can do,” Williams said.

Donors who cannot make cash donations on campus are encouraged to contribute to tsunami relief by mailing a check to the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, Blue String Fund, at 1270 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402, (423)265-0586.

“The benefit of supporting Sarvodaya, a local organization, is that it has roots firmly in that country that employs people in that country, and has a long-term stake in the future and well-being of their citizens,” said Ajit Chittambalam, a UTC senior from Sri Lanka and head of the UTC Committee for Tsunami Relief.

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In the aftermath of the December tsunami, there has been much discussion about the installation of tsunami early warning systems.

In the U.S., Senator Joe Lieiberman has introduced legislation to create a global tsunami warning system. Noting that the probability is slim of a tsunami affecting the coasts of the United States, Lieberman believes new and better sensors should be used to upgrade the limited system currently in place. The United Nations plans to have an Indian Ocean tsunami early warning system established by June 2006, with a global system operational by June 2007.

The Chattanooga Geology Club will host a presentation by Dr. Jonathan Mies, UC Foundation Associate Professor of Geology at UTC, titled “A Geologist’s Perspective on Tsunamis and the Early Warning System” Tuesday February 1, 7 p.m. in Bretske Hall. Mies’ lecture is free to the public.

“Without offering a personal opinion in the matter, my observation is the recent tsunami in Asia was a really, really unusual event. Some say a tsunami of that magnitude only occurs every 500 years. That said, we cannot predict the future,” Mies said.

Should an early warning detection system be upgraded off the coasts of the United States, with a hefty price tag for installation and maintenance of the new system? Mies says it could be hundreds of years before it is needed.

“There may be a less costly, more effective, and easier way to approach the problem, with better means of communication. Frankly, if the correct contacts and telephone numbers had been in place, a two-hour notice could have been given to Sri Lanka in December, and many deaths could have been avoided,” Mies said.

February 2, 2005

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