09/14/2007, 00.00
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New tsunami alert in Indonesia, warning system working well

Another quake hits Sumatra this morning. UN officials announce warning system set up in the wake of the 2004 tsunami is working well; time delay is minimal between first warnings to regional governments and alert issued to populations.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The warning system set up after the devastating 2004 Asian tsunami, which killed 230,000 people around the Indian Ocean, worked well after a string of earthquakes off Indonesia on Wednesday and Thursday, the United Nations said.

Wednesday’s 8.4 quake did not cause any tsunami and the initial alerts were lifted. The number of death did rise though to 14. furthermore, Indonesian authorities had to issue a tsunami alert today after another earthquake struck the western coast of Sumatra measuring 6.9 quake on the Richter scale.

Humanitarian workers are already in Bengkulu, the hardest-hit area. Catholic NGOs, like Catholic Relief Service, announced their readiness to help the displaced and injured.

In Indonesia mosque loudspeakers were used to warn residents within minutes of a powerful earthquake. In Bangladesh volunteers with bullhorns told tourists and fishermen to flee to higher ground ahead of a possible tsunami.

“They were quite fast in delivering the warning. The first [. . . one] went out in five or six minutes,” said Michael Rottmann, the United Nations special coordinator for the early warning system in Indonesia.

By comparison the 2004 tsunami disaster was marked by failures to warn many communities, mostly because of faulty equipment, poor communications and cumbersome bureaucracy.

That prompted the United Nations and six governments, including the United States, to create the US$ 130 million Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, a network of seismographs, deep-sea monitoring buoys and water-pressure measurement devices.

The system also includes some gear and training for local officials to notify people about the threat of a tsunami.

The system is expected to be fully completed in 2008, improving the accuracy of its data with more seismographs and at least 13 more pressure-measurement devices, known by the acronym DART, for Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis.

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