Mon, Mar 30, 2015 - Page 3 News List

CWB says undersea line damaged

SETBACK TO MACHO:The director of the Seismology Center said a fishing boat’s seine net only damaged the line, not an observatory buried 500m beneath the waves

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The Central Weather Bureau yesterday confirmed that a line connecting marine cables and the observatory used in its Marine Cable Hosted Observatory (MACHO) project was damaged by a fishing boat’s net, but said the cables and observatory remained intact.

The confirmation followed a report in yesterday’s Apple Daily that said the connecting line and the observatory were damage by a seine net in May last year.

The newspaper said the accident had sent the government’s investment in the project — approximately NT$450 million (US$14.34 million) — down the drain and the bureau had hidden the loss.

Seismology Center Director Kuo Kai-wen (郭鎧紋) said the seine fishing boat only damaged the line connecting the cables and the observatory. He said such nets used to only reach 250m below the ocean surface, but now can reach down 287m.

The bureau cannot seek compensation from the fishermen’s associations in Yilan County’s Toucheng (頭城) and Suao (蘇澳) for breaking the line because the associations had only allowed the observatory to be installed after the bureau promised not to sue fishermen over any damage accidently caused by fishing boats, Kuo said.

The bureau estimated that repairs to the line could top NT$100 million, which would exceed the MACHO project’s budget, so it decided to address the problem during the second phase of the project, he said.

The observatory was buried 500m under the sea as part of Phase I of the project, but will be reburied at 1,000m down during Phase II, when the cables would be wrapped around the observatory, he said.

Kuo said the bureau plans to complete Phase II of the project in the summer of next year, and that after testing, the observatory could commence operations at the beginning of 2017.

Even without the observatory, the bureau is able to quickly receive notice of undersea earthquakes because it has also installed deep-well earthquake observatories along the northeast coast of Taiwan, he said.

The MACHO system is designed to monitor earthquakes beneath the ocean floor, cutting the time needed to issue sub-marine quake reports by between 10 seconds and 12 seconds and enhance the accuracy of such reports as well, the bureau said.

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