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Tsunami warning system launched

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday launched the Rp 1.4 trillion (US$133 million) Indonesia Tsunami Early Warning System (InaTEWS), despite inadequacies that may cause a significant time lapse in its forecast. We cant stop natural disasters, but this system shows our progress and commitment to preventing or at least minimizing the impact from a tsunami, Yudhoyono said at the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) office. InaTEWS is capable of forewarning a tsunami five minutes after the occurrence of any earthquake with the potential to trigger killer waves. This is designed to allow residents along coastal areas to take necessary action such as running to higher ground. The system was installed in Aceh, West Sumatra, Bengkulu, Banten and Bali, and was tested on Tuesday. The President asked local authorities to provide residents with tsunami drills to complement the technology. But vandalism of the supporting equipment has raised fears about whether the early warning technology will be effective. Ridwan Djamaluddin, the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technologys (BPPT) official in charge of buoy monitoring, said at least five InaTEWS buoys had been vandalized since 2006. Some of them are broken, others are missing or stolen. But we try our best to monitor the buoys and to educate local people to take care of the equipment for their own safety, he said. As of October 2008, the system only comprised 116 broadband seismometers, 45 tidal gauges and 3 buoys. The government initially planned to operate 160 broadband seismometers, 500 accelerographs, 40 GPS units, 80 tidal gauges and 23 Dart buoys. Despite the setbacks, German and Indonesian research institutions, along with several universities including the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), will provide training over the next two years for officers to run the early warning system. In December 2004, a tsunami struck coastal areas of Aceh and Nias, killing 150,000 people. About 60 percent of coastal areas in the country are prone to similar disasters.

Indonesia has been developing the early warning system with help from Germany, China, Japan, France and the United States. Powerful technology only works when the people know how to use and react the right way to it, said German Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Rachel, who also attended the launch. In a video conference with Yudhoyono, Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf said six sirens installed across the province two years ago were insufficient in providing a warning. We dont have sirens in areas such as Calang, Meulaboh and Lamno, which are prone to tsunami, Irwandi said. West Sumatra Governor Gamawan Fauzi told the President the province had received better facilities than other provinces, thanks to the French governments establishment of a crisis center there in 2006.