Diego Garcia Navy base reports no damage from quake, tsunamis
WASHINGTON — A Navy support facility located near the center of the Indian Ocean was spared any damage from Sunday’s devastating ocean surges.
Officials said the Diego Garcia Navy Support Facility, which houses about 1,700 military personnel and 1,500 civilian contractors, suffered no damage related to Sunday’s earthquake and ensuing tsunamis.
Personnel at the facility’s billeting office contacted by Stars and Stripes on Monday reported no unusual activity or problems over the weekend.
Diego Garcia, the southernmost island in the Chagos Archipelago, sits about 1,000 miles south of India and roughly 2,000 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter.
But officials in Somalia, whose coast is nearly 3,000 from the earthquake’s center, reported more than 100 deaths in coastal areas as a result of tidal waves.
Carolyn Bell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Geological Survey, said even though an earthquake like Sunday’s will radiate destructive waves in all directions, the damage caused by the water differs greatly depending on the undersea topography.
She speculated that the numerous coral reefs may have dissipated some of the waves’ impact on the British-owned island, resulting in only a slightly higher tide that residents might not necessarily notice.
She said residents of coastal areas in Australia reported no effects from the earthquake, even though researchers know the sea levels there rose several feet.
Diego Garcia is a horseshoe-shaped island about 39 miles long, surrounded by coral reefs on all sides. Its highest point is only 22 feet above sea level.
Both Naval and Air Force personnel are stationed on the island. The facility was used to support and launch strikes against Iraq in the first Gulf War, and was used for strikes against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, and again in 2003 for strikes in Iraq.
The Navy has eight ships active in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and officials said none reported any damage from Sunday’s disaster.