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UPDATED: 15:25, December 02, 2006
Nations progess on tsunami detection
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Thailand and Australia took landmark efforts to strengthen related regions' tsunami-warning capability respectively on Friday.

Thailand launched the first of 22 US-made tsunami-detection buoys to be positioned around the Indian Ocean as part of a regional warning system against giant waves caused by earthquakes under the sea.

The satellite-linked deep-sea buoy, unveiled at a ceremony on the tsunami-hit island of Phuket, will float 1,000 kilometres offshore, roughly midway between Thailand and Sri Lanka.

"This will give us the capability to provide 1 hour warning to most of the countries in the northern part of the basin," Curtis Barret of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

Washington donated the buoy, but Thailand will be responsible for its upkeep.

Under a similar arrangement, a second buoy will be installed in April 2007 off Sumatra in Indonesia, which bore the brunt of the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004 which left more than 230,000 people dead or missing.

It will take nearly a week for the ship carrying the buoy to reach its final destination, although the system is expected to be operational almost immediately.

Besides the buoys, Thailand has erected around 90 tsunami warning towers along its Andaman Sea coast to try to reassure residents and the 13 million tourists who visit the country each year.

Meanwhile, Australia unveiled on Friday a tsunami warning system designed to help prevent a repeat of the 2004 disaster that killed almost 250,000 people around the Indian Ocean.

The 21.2 million Australian dollar (US$16.7 million) centre will track seismology readings at 39 Australian and 70 international monitoring stations, said Neil Williams, chief executive of GeoScience Australia, a government agency.

Operating 24 hours a day, the centre will co-ordinate with Australia's Bureau of Meteorology to deliver warnings within 90 minutes of a tsunami being detected in the region.

GeoScience Australia seismologist Phil Cummins said such a warning could have prevented the catastrophic loss of life caused by the tsunami, which hit 12 countries after a 9.3 magnitude earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

After the quake, the tsunami took two to four hours to strike land, Cummins said. Tens of thousands of people could have been saved had they received prompt warning, he said.

Scientists knew the size and location of the quake within 10 minutes, but had no way of knowing if it had generated a dangerous tsunami. What little information was known, from tsunami experts in Hawaii, could not be communicated effectively due to the lack of a warning network.

The international community rallied in the wake of the tragedy with reconstruction assistance and a dedication to avert similar tragedies in the future. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, a UN organization, took the lead in planning for an Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System.

Source: China Daily

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