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Efforts to create a regional tsunami alert centre for the Indian Ocean are being undermined by a lack of trust and poor planning, say specialists.

India, Indonesia and Thailand, the three countries worst affected by last year's tsunami, are among the nations developing their own warning systems after failing to agree on a regional one.

Ulrich Wolf of the United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) says the problem is a lack of trust about sharing sensitive data. But the pace of IOC efforts has been criticised as "hopeless" by the official responsible for Thailand's alert system.

An early warning system like that in the Pacific Ocean could have saved lives in 2004, when the tsunami killed more than 220,000 people in a dozen countries.

The IOC has reached a broad agreement to install a similar system in the Indian Ocean, but its alerts now look set to be processed at a national rather than regional level.

Indonesia plans to spend US$125 million on its early warning network, including sirens along the coast. India hopes its US$28 million system will be running by September 2007. Thailand is installing 62 warning towers along the coastline of six provinces and hopes to have a warning system ready by the end of 2006.

The amount of work ahead was shown last week, when only half of the region's 26 nations responded in less than ten minutes to an IOC test message.

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Read more about tsunamis in SciDev.Net's Tsunami update