Sistema de alerta sobre tsunamis para sur de Asia estará listo en 2006

GENEVA, Switzerland (Reuters) — A tsunami early alert system, which could have saved thousands of lives around the Indian Ocean this week, should be in place in South and Southeast Asia within a year, a U.N. official said on Wednesday.
The technology to detect undersea earthquakes, such as the one off Indonesia that unleashed Sunday’s devastating waves, is used elsewhere and could be shared with vulnerable coastal communities in the region, said Salvano Briceno, head of a United Nations’ disaster agency.
«I want to see that every coastal country around South Asia and Southeast Asia has at least a basic but effective tsunami warning system in place by this time next year,» the director of the U.N.’s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction said in a statement.
What was needed was an international system for countries to share knowledge of seismic events together with an efficient domestic communication network allowing governments to transmit warnings quickly to communities at risk, he said.
«There is no reason why this cannot be done … there is a strong basis of knowledge, technology and collaboration, and a real readiness to act.
«The problem is not so much the technical system, but the (communication) network … There is a great deal of work to be done in raising awareness of coastal communities,» he told a news conference.
The huge waves, which killed at least 80,000 people, with Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand the worst hit, took between one and six hours to reach their shores.
This would have been enough for preventive action had the earthquake occurred in the Pacific Ocean, by far the most seismically active of the world’s seas, because both the United States and Japan were well prepared, Briceno said.
Japan has already offered to make its technology and experience available to other Asian countries, he said.
The Indian Ocean, with no major tsunami in over 100 years, was not the only vulnerable area. The Caribbean and the Mediterranean, both on fault lines, were also at risk.
«Immediately after the tragedy we received concerns from the Caribbean, and even the Mediterranean and Europe and Northern Africa have the same threat,» said Briceno, a Colombian.
A U.N. conference on disaster reduction next month in the Japanese city of Kobe, where some 6,400 were killed in a quake in 1995, was an opportunity to start preparations.
In the past it has been difficult to interest politicians in issues relating to risk reduction, Briceno said.
The conference is to be attended by officials and experts rather than decision-taking ministers. But Briceno said he hoped the Indian Ocean disaster and other recent catastrophes could encourage governments to pay more attention.
«I hope that given the tragedies that have happened, not just this, but the many throughout the year, it could motivate a higher level of participation,» he said.
«Governments need to give more attention to reducing risk rather than (just) responding (to it).»

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