Mon, Jan 03, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Tsunami alarm system to focus on Indian Ocean


Officials in charge of the existing international tsunami warning system, which covers only the Pacific Ocean, have taken an initial step to broaden the network to the Indian Ocean and other possible trouble spots, agreeing to distribute their bulletins on earthquakes and possible waves "to anyone who wants to receive the messages."

Until now the bulletins had gone only to about 300 agencies and individual scientists tracking conditions mainly in the Pacific, which has historically experienced 90 percent of the world's underwater earthquakes and tsunamis.

The Web site for the office of the tsunami monitoring service is

Peter Pissierssens, the director of ocean services for the Paris-based Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, a UN agency, emphasized that this was just a first step.

A workable system in the Indian Ocean would require countries there not just to join the organization but also to expand their own networks of tide gauges and seismographs and integrate them to ensure that warnings could be sent quickly, he said.

The group's budget would have to expand, Pissierssens added.

"What we can do depends to a large extent on the resources available in the participating countries and on what we, as a UN agency, receive from member states."

The group's Pacific focus is reflected in its name, the International Coordination Group for the Tsunami Warning System in the Pacific. Its 26 member nations include Indonesia and Thailand, which face the Indian Ocean.

Some tsunami experts had been pressing Indian Ocean countries in recent years to take the danger into account and develop warning systems, and others had been pressing the international warning network to broaden its geographic base.

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