India to Set up Tsunami Alert System by Sept. 2007
NEW DELHI India, hit hard by Asia's tsunami last year, will have a warning system ready by September 2007 to protect its eastern and western coasts from killer waves, officials said on Monday.
Over 9,200 people died in India and more than 3,000 are missing after the Dec. 26 tsunami slammed into India's coast and washed over its remote Andaman and Nicobar islands, triggered by a powerful undersea earthquake off Indonesia.
"All important elements should be in position in one year and the warning system will be completely in place by Sept. 2007," Harsh Gupta, the Secretary of the Department of Ocean Development, told a news conference.
Indian officials said the target was achievable.
"We can do it," Minister for Ocean Development Kapil Sibal said in reply to a question at the same briefing.
Officials estimate close to 100 billion rupees ($2.3 billion) is needed to rebuild damaged infrastructure and rehabilitate tens of thousands of people who lost their homes, livelihood and relatives in the catastrophe.
New Delhi has refused offers of help from other countries in setting up a warning system but said it was ready to share data once it was set up.
Sibal said work had started in February on a system that includes sensors close to the ocean bottom in the Indian Ocean, tidal gauges and data buoys.
Separately, India's Home (interior) Minister Shivraj Patil told parliament on Monday that the country's tsunami warning system would cost 1.25 billion rupees to set up.
Officials said at least 70 percent of tsunami warnings generated worldwide were false alarms and they wanted an indigenous system to slash the number of misleading warnings.
"In a country where the coastal regions are heavily-populated, we cannot afford to have many false warnings," Gupta said.
Four days after the Dec. 26 tsunami, an edgy India issued a tsunami warning, based on what experts called sketchy information, sending thousands of people fleeing from the coast.
There was no tsunami-generating earthquake nor any sign of the killer waves on that day, embarrassing the government.
Officials said the new warning system could be linked to a centre to collect information from buoys, tidal gauges and sensors and for issuing warnings.
The government also plans to introduce a bill in parliament on Tuesday to set up a National Disaster Management Authority to deal with tsunami and other natural and manmade disasters.
In the Andaman and Nicobar islands, authorities are planning to use the Short Messaging System through mobile phones to issue tsunami alerts to thousands of people simultaneously.