by Oakley Brooks
Marshall Cavendish Editions, HK$130
Anyone who has returned to areas levelled by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami will understand what geologist Kerry Sieh means when he talks about unfettered rebuilding in earthquake and tsunami-prone zones, pointing out there's nothing in gene pools that stops people behaving in ways that avoids long-term destruction. 'You just can't expect people to have an inbred desire to respond to an event that occurs once every 600 years or every 200 years,' he tells Oakley Brooks in Tsunami Alert. Although the West Sumatran capital of Padang escaped the havoc that befell Banda Aceh in 2004, Sieh predicts it will be the target of the next Big One. One reason he worked with Brooks on his book - centred on Padang and the difficulties its people face in understanding and acting on the threat - is that a quarter of its 800,000 residents live within 1 kilometre of the ocean. However, Brooks writes, the story could as easily be about Manila, the US west coast or an affluent part of Japan. Human nature, superstition and insufficient funds and interest strengthen the arguments made in the book, which is doubly poignant in the aftermath of the recent Tohoku, Japan, upheavals.