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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 December, 2004, 14:56 GMT
India plans tsunami alert system
Monitor at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, Hawaii
The Pacific Ocean already has a tsunami alert system
The Indian government has announced plans for installing a tsunami early warning system in the wake of the Indian Ocean disaster.

A minister said the country had had no warning of Sunday's giant wave which killed at least 7,000 in India alone.

A US-made pressure recording system is to be laid on the ocean floor and linked to surface data buoys.

The new system will be similar to that used in the Pacific Ocean and should also provide warnings of cyclones.

"If the country had had such an alert system in place, we could have warned the coastal areas of the imminent danger and avoided the loss of life," said Kapil Sibal, India's minister of state for science and technology.

International proposals to install an early warning system in the Indian Ocean were raised last year but made little progress.

Vulnerable ocean

The new system will take between two and two and a half years to install and will cost up to 1.25bn rupees ($27m), Mr Sibal was quoted as saying by AP news agency.

Putting in the sensors is the easy part - the difficult part... would be coordination between emergency response agencies in the region
Harley Benz
US Geological Survey

It will also be independent of the Pacific Rim system.

Calls for an international early warning system in the Indian Ocean were revived by the 53-nation Commonwealth on Monday.

"I think people are going to be asking questions like: Why can't the Indian Ocean know the kind of things that the Pacific Ocean knows about when tsunamis are around?" Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon told the BBC.

The Pacific system gives advance notice to coastal areas and low-lying islands that floods could be on the way, so that emergency plans can be activated.

US seismologist Harley Benz said a basic system of seismic sensors and tide gauges could be set up within two years in the Indian Ocean but that, he warned, was only one element.

"Putting in the sensors is the easy part," he told AP. "The difficult part here would be coordination between emergency response agencies in the region."

Sensitive issue

Thailand is believed to be the only state to have issued a warning of the impending disaster but investigators are now trying to establish whether the news was deliberately played down so as not to sow panic among tourists.

A website caution, for example, was reportedly only posted three hours after the first deluge hit the country's southern resorts.

Sulamee Prachuab, head of the Thai Meteorological Department's Seismological Bureau, recalled that a tidal wave warning issued five years earlier after an earthquake in Papua New Guinea had led to complaints from the tourism authority that such alerts hurt the industry.


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How a warning system would work



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