Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Another Tsunami Hits Indonesia, Lack of Widespread Warning System Exposed

Source: Voice of America

A 7.7 magnitude, offshore earthquake triggered a tsunami that has claimed the lives of at least 300 residents of Java, Indonesia. Even after the devastating tsunami of December 2004, the residents received no warning on Monday.

The earthquake was detected at the Pacific Warning Center in Hawaii and a warning was issued that included southern Java. The Indonesian Bureau of Meteorology and Geophysics said a warning was issued, but cited difficultly in relaying the information to citizens on a large island such as Java. Many did not feel the earthquake and the rising water was their first sign.

Michael Rottmann, a UN special coordinator for the Indian Ocean tsunami warning system, said that international donors are helping set up a system that will eventually allow Indonesian authorities to issue reliable warnings, but warned that they system is “very sophisticated and needs still some more time to be implemented.”

Officials are aiming at 2009 as the time when the system will be fully operational. To date, only 2 out of 20 sensors have been installed in the ocean. Both of those currently installed are near Sumatra, which is hundreds of kilometers from the site of this week’s tsunami. Until this system is implemented for the Indian Ocean, countries will rely on their own systems, such as those operated by Thailand or Malaysia, or they will depend on information from the Pacific center, which has limited information for the Indian Ocean.

A meeting of experts is planned for next week in Indonesia to discuss progress and plans or the warning system.

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