Indonesia launches tsunami early warning system

November 11th, 2008 - 6:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, Nov 11 (DPA) A tsunami early warning system developed and funded by five donor countries began operations Tuesday in Indonesia, nearly four years after the Asian tsunami of December 2004, which claimed 230,000 lives.Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who attended the launch ceremony in Jakarta, expressed pride over the development of the technology in Indonesia but reminded the country that the equipment was not an end-all, be-all but would only provide help.

The German government financed the 45-million-euro ($58-million) project.

The 2004 tsunami was triggered by an earthquake that measured 9.3 on the Richter scale off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The German Research Centre for Geosciences said the death toll would have been considerably lower if an early warning system had been in place at the time.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in remarks read at the inauguration ceremony that the system was an “essential ingredient” to prevent another tragedy and to get accurate tsunami warnings to residence so they have time to flee.

“This is a major step forward for countless people in the region,” Ban said.

With the establishment of the system, Indonesia would be able to provide a tsunami warning in five minutes, “shortly after an earthquake with the potential to generate a tsunami has been located, to give ample time for the public to move to safety,” said Sri Woro Harijono, the head of Indonesia’s Meteorogical, Climatological and Geophysical Agency.

The system makes use of sensors placed on the seabed that relay details of changes in water pressure to buoys on the surface. The information is then transmitted via satellite to a tsunami early warning centre in Indonesia.

Sri Woro said that by the end of 2008, the observation network would operate 116 broadband seismographs, 90 tide gauges and two buoys.

Indonesia is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries. It sits atop the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Fire, where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity.

The 2004 quake and tsunami, which struck off Aceh, killed more than 170,000 people in that province alone.

Other tsunami early warning systems have been installed in other countries hit by the 2004 tsunami, including Thailand and India.

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