Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Indonesian Tsunami Alert System Was Inoperative Because of Vandalism

Several hundred people were killed and hundreds of villages were damaged as a result of a tsunami caused by a magnitude 7.7 earthquake Monday. Yet, few were warned of the impending tsunami because the system was inoperable as a result of vandalism.
Ridwan Jamaluddin, of the Indonesian Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology, told the BBC's Indonesian service that two buoys off the Mentawai islands were vandalised and so out of service.

"We don't say they are broken down but they were vandalised and the equipment is very expensive. It cost us five billion rupiah each (£353,000; $560,000).

Another official, from the Indonesian Climatology Agency told the BBC's Indonesian service that both tide gauges and buoys are used to detect a tsunami, but the buoys are more important to generating an early warning.

"To predict a tsunami, we need the data from the buoy and the tide gauge, which is located near the beach. The buoy is more important because it is on the sea, so it will record the wave much quicker that the tide gauge," said the official, named Fauzi.

Residents of the Mentawai islands have told the BBC they heard no tsunami warning.

"There was not any siren to warn people in Sikakap [a small town on North Pagai island]," said Ferdinand Salamanang.

"Yes there was a quake and tsunami detection system in our port, but they are broken down. We did not hear any warning this time."
Despite the massive tsunami that killed more than 230,000 throughout South Asia, including Indonesia back in 2004, warning systems are still not getting the kind of priority that they should given the amount of damage that can be wrought. Indonesia is routinely hit with significant and massive earthquakes, any of which can cause tsunamis. Warning systems may help people closest to the coast get out of harm's way in time to avoid the surging waters that can inundate coastlines for miles. The Indonesian government has to do a better job prioritizing its funding for warning systems given the potential for massive death and devastation.

No comments: