Friday, December 31, 2004

Prevention: Worth a Mention?

The "news" bulletins of the Boxing Day Tsunami disaster are stuck in a rut of counting the numbers and asking people how difficult it is to clear up the mess.

The intrepid journalists might spend a little time thinking about prevention. It is not impossible.

The International Action Center has this:
Officials in Thailand and Indonesia have said that an immediate public warning could have saved lives, but that they could not know of the danger because there is no international system in place to track tsunamis in the Indian Ocean.
Such a system is not difficult or expensive to install. In fact, the detector buoys that monitor tsunamis have been available for decades and the U.S. has had a monitoring system in place for more than half a century. More than 50 seismometers are scattered across the Northwest to detect and measure earthquakes that might spawn tsunamis. In the middle of the Pacific are six buoys equipped with sensors called "tsunameters" that measure small changes in water pressure and programmed to automatically alert the country's two tsunami-warning centers in Hawaii and Alaska. Dr. Eddie Bernard, director of the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, says just a few buoys could do the job. Scientists wanted
to place two more tsunami meters in the Indian Ocean, including one near
Indonesia, but the plan had not been funded, said Bernard. The tsunameters each cost only $250,000. A mere half million dollars could have provided an early warning system that could have saved thousands of lives. This should be compared to the $1,500,000,000 the U.S. spends every day to fund the Pentagon war machine.

And here's a report of a meeting of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in 1999 - but it seems a little delicate - the page keeps freezing if you try to select and copy text. It details the concerns of Australian delegates five years ago to set up an Indian Ocean monitoring system like that which exists in the Pacific. The Delegate of Indonesia supported the need for a co-ordinated Indian Ocean tsunami warning
system and pointed out that Indonesia is veryvulnerable to local tsunamis on its Indian Ocean coasts. In
its capacityas the ASEAN Earthquake Information Centre (AEIC), Indonesia provides quick epicenter
determination (preliminaryversion) of significant earthquakes (magnitude greater than or equal to5) to
the ASEAN member countries. This can be extended to countries in the vicinityof Southeast Asia in an
anticipation for tsunami warning systems in the Southwest Pacific and Indian Ocean.

The Group re-affirmed that a major tsunamigenic region exists in the Indian Ocean area in the vicinity of Indonesia and recommended that Australia and Indonesia co-ordinate their activities in the development of a Indian Ocean warning system during the intersessional period. This could be facilitated with the joint involvement of Australian and Indonesian experts in the ITSU Visiting Experts Programme. The Delegates of Australia and Indonesia were invited to consider ominating candidates for the 2000 Visiting Experts Programme and inform the IOC Executive Secretaryand the ITIC Director accordingly.

Why has nothing come of that concern?
Who decided that it would not be money well spent?

And while we are at it, will the European Parliament see to it the the EU sets up a Tsunami Early Warning System to be ready for the time when of one of the Gran Canaria volcanoes falls into the sea?
Caroline Lucas can sort that out for us if we ask her nicely.

No comments: