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Last Updated: Monday, 3 January, 2005, 14:24 GMT
Indonesia plans wave alert system
Banda Aceh, Indonesia
There is concern about sanitary conditions in devastated areas
Indonesia says it is planning to set up a tsunami warning system that will help to prevent the massive loss of life caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said he wants scientists to work with neighbouring countries on the project.

People received no warning as the waves hit the coasts of 12 countries around the Indian Ocean.

Indonesia was among the worst affected, with a loss of more than 94,000 people. Total deaths near 140,000.

Indonesia will host a summit of affected countries and representatives from donor nations later this week to discuss the relief effort and the setting up of a warning system.

A simple and timely message can go a long way and can mean the difference between life and death, not to mention between economic survival and ruin
Salveno Briceno,
UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
US Secretary of State Colin Powell, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Japanese premier Junichuro Koizumi are all due to attend the summit amid high security.

The UN has said a tsunami alert system similar to ones operating in the Pacific Ocean could have drastically cut casualty figures.

"A simple and timely message can go a long way and can mean the difference between life and death, not to mention between economic survival and ruin," said Salveno Briceno of the UN's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

He said a system could be operational within 12 months.

President Yudhoyono said he wanted a system to help "prevent massive loss of life and to handle future earthquakes and natural disasters as well as to take preventative action".

India, where some 9,500 died in coastal towns and islands, has already said it plans to install deep-ocean monitoring equipment.

Disease risk

As plans are made for the future, aid is starting to reach survivors.

Province on the north-western tip of Sumatra
Higher percentage of Muslims than other parts of Indonesia
Gam rebels have fought decades-long separatist campaign
Year-long military crackdown beginning in May 2003 weakened Gam, but failed to capture senior members

US helicopters have started dropping food and medical supplies into isolated parts of Aceh province in Indonesia, the closest to the epicentre of the earthquake that caused the waves.

But heavy rains and damage to roads and bridges is preventing aid convoys reaching some areas.

Aid workers say they are shocked at the poor living conditions survivors are having to endure and have warned of the threat of disease.

Titon Mitra, emergency response director for Care International, told the BBC that sanitation facilities in the town of Banda Aceh were appalling.

"In these camps here we've got 3,000 people, and there's four toilets for 3,000 people, and normally you'd want for 20 people one toilet. So I think if these conditions aren't improved very quickly, we could have a serious situation in these camps alone."

1. Seismic observatories in the region detect an earthquake and send data to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii.
2. If the earthquake is in the Pacific basin and above 7.5 on Richter scale, an initial "Tsunami watch" alert is sent out.
3. Data from monitoring stations deep on the seabed near the earthquake's epicentre is checked for signs of a tsunami.
4. If a tsunami is detected, full warnings are sent out via national systems which have been set up in several countries.


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