Tsunami warning system begins to take shape

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami caused many human casualties and widespread destruction Copyright: US Geological Survey

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Over 230,000 people died in a dozen nations when a tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean in late 2004. Almost a year later, a regional warning network is beginning to emerge.

In this article in Science, Richard Stone and Richard A. Kerr chart the progress made by countries around the Indian Ocean in installing a system of monitoring instruments alongside systems for sharing data and warning the public.

A basic ocean-wide warning system is expected to be in place by July 2006. Coordinated by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the final version is expected to cost about US$200 million and will be fully operational in several years.

With researchers pinpointing southern Sumatra as the next area of high tsunami risk, Indonesia is working on a comprehensive evacuation plan and, with the rest of the region, investing in hi-tech, deep-sea pressure sensors to complement seismic information.

The authors say the most valuable legacy of the 26 December 2004 tsunami may be the national disaster centres countries are setting up to monitor and respond to incoming data.

As the first anniversary of the December 2004 tsunami approaches, the 24-hour surveillance they offer is a welcome reassurance to many.

Link to article in Science

Reference: Science 310, 1602 (2005)