Lessons learnt but warning system still inadequate

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The Independent Online

In the end, there was no tsunami. But the response to Monday night's scare suggests that, since the trauma of Boxing Day, limited lessons have been learnt by the countries which live in fear of a repeat.

In the end, there was no tsunami. But the response to Monday night's scare suggests that, since the trauma of Boxing Day, limited lessons have been learnt by the countries which live in fear of a repeat.

Within minutes of the quake, the US Geological Survey and Japan's Meteorological Agency had passed on to Asian governments news of a major tremor off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. In December, Asian countries were not even members of a warning network. Details of Monday's quake were swiftly relayed across the region by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii.

Soon after, most governments' emergency programmes had swung into action. "The system is working far better this time," declared the United Nations emergency relief co-ordinator, Jan Egeland.

But much fine-tuning is required. Once the Hawaii message had reached the respective governments, the rudimentary early-warning systems now in place had to rely on ad hoc procedures - from local media reports to the chiming of temple bells.

Earlier this year, world leaders pledged support for a UN-backed Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning Centre. But littletsunami detection equipment has been installed since December and the system is not expected to be fully operational until the end of 2006.

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