Da The Age del 19/07/2006
Originale su http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/indonesia-has-big-plans-but-still-...

Indonesia has big plans but still no warning system

di Stephen Cauchi

THE earthquake that triggered Monday's deadly tsunami hit the ocean floor off Java at 6.19pm Melbourne time.

But Indonesian authorities did not have the ability or resources to warn villagers living on the Java coastline, 245 kilometres away at the closest point.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii detected the earthquake immediately. By 6.36pm it had measured and assessed the tsunami threat and alerted all Indian Ocean countries, including Australia and Indonesia.

It warned that the quake would not cause damage on the scale of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, but it could affect local coastlines.

The warning was received at the Indonesian Meteorological and Geophysics Agency in Jakarta at 6.36pm, the same time as it was received by Australia's Bureau of Meteorology. In Australia, the warning was swiftly passed to Emergency Management Australia, which has a disaster plan in store should a large tsunami head Australia's way.

The threat to Australia was assessed as minimal.

Despite being close to the epicentre, Christmas Island did not suffer, in part due to its geography and the tsunami's direction.

There was no system to alert coastal villagers in Indonesia. "We still don't have a tsunami warning system in place," an official at the geophysics agency said.

Chris Ryan, from the Bureau of Meteorology, said villages were hit at different times depending on their distance from the epicentre.

Cilacap was hit 41 minutes after the earthquake and Benoa 92 minutes after. Hundreds of people died.

The Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System, set up after the Boxing Day tsunami, was still far from effective in many countries, Mr Ryan said.

While Indonesia had big plans for a warning system, it was still only 1½ years into a four to five-year project.

This week's earthquake was much smaller than the 2004 earthquake that generated an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami. Seismologists said Monday's quake had caused only a small change to the ocean floor.

Both earthquakes occurred on the Eurasian fault line, which runs along the Indonesian archipelago.

The US-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre put the latest earthquake's magnitude at 7.2 on the Richter scale; the US Geological Survey estimated it at 7.7 and Indonesia's agency said the figure was 6.8.

Australia's Seismology Research Centre said that an earthquake would need to be at least 8.5 to generate an oceanwide tsunami. The 2004 earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra was 9.3.

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