CTEC, The Community Tsunami Early-Warning Centre is located just outside the village of Peraliya, Thelwatta in the Hikkaduwa region of Sri Lanka.
Following the Boxing Day tsunami in the Indian Ocean, Hikkaduwa was one of the most devastated regions in Sri Lanka. An unsuspecting Peraliya was quickly thrown into the world media spotlight as it was also the site of the world’s largest ever train disaster when the Queen of the Seas Colombo-Galle Express train was derailed there in the waves of December 26, 2004.
It is estimated that some 2,500 people died in the village while only 8 walls of 500 plus houses remained standing. False tsunami warnings occurred daily- usually given by worried villagers or a drunk and in response to the false alarm, people would panic and get hurt or killed.
A solution was needed so we co-founded CTEC –which is the first Community Tsunami Early-warning Center in Sri Lanka. the Co-founder was my trusted Sri Lankan friend Dr Novil, who had been working in our hospital. Sirens were set up around the surrounding villages and a rotation schedule of officers enabled us to be open 24 hours a day.
CTEC continues to grow in 2014 we celebrated our 10th year anniversary where we opened a tsunami museum and children’s disaster learning center. It is obvious that if a proper warning system were already in place, many lives would have been saved in the tsunami. An international coordinated tsunami warning system has been proposed but is unlikely to be in operation before the end of 2020. In the meantime, the Indian Ocean region remains largely unprotected.
Our goal is to protect the Sri Lankan coastline with an Early-warning system in place and to also create a culture of preparation in case of a future disaster.