Thailand Plans Tsunami Detection Devices
Nov. 16, 2006
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Thai and U.S. experts will install the Indian Ocean's first state-of-the-art deep-water tsunami detection buoy next month, two years after massive waves killed at least 216,000 people around the region largely without warning, a top official said Thursday.
Hobbled by technical and financial problems, the Indian Ocean warning system remains highly dependent on information from tsunami monitoring centers in Hawaii and Japan that are linked to detection devices around the world, including a network of buoys anchored to the deep Pacific Ocean floor.
U.S. and Japanese officials said their systems worked well Wednesday when a large north Pacific earthquake triggered warnings in coastal areas on both sides on the ocean. Small waves hit Japan and Hawaii. No deaths and little damage were reported.
Under the leadership of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a target date of July 2007 was originally set for a fully operating Indian Ocean system. But technical and funding hitches set back the date, and participants agreed at a meeting this past July to aim for mid-2008 instead.
Smith Thammararoj, head of Thailand's Tsunami Detection Center, said that Thai experts and U.S. colleagues from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plan to set out by ship from Thailand's Phuket island on Nov. 28 to install the new buoy off Thailand's Andaman coast, near the Nicobar islands, Smith said.
The buoy will be part of an American-designed system to be known as DART-2, for Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis. The Pacific system is called DART-1.
DART-1, coordinated by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii and the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, has buoys deployed mostly near U.S. territory.
Japan's system uses a supercomputer linked by satellite to an array of seismic, pressure and tidal sensors that can forecast the sizes of waves approaching the country's coastline.
``Our tsunami warning system worked well,'' said Takeshi Hachimine, chief of Japan's Meteorological Agency's earthquake and tsunami monitoring section, said of the north Pacific tsunami, which was set off by an earthquake near Russia's Kiril islands.
The push to have an Indian Ocean warning system came after the December 26, 2004 tsunami killed people in a dozen countries, including Thailand.
``This kind of tsunami detection equipment is the first to be installed in the Indian Ocean, where it could save the lives of more than two billion people,'' Smith said. ``The DART buoy that we are going to install will be of benefit not just to Thailand but to other countries in the Indian Ocean rim also.''
A second DART buoy is supposed to be deployed by the U.S. and Thailand sometime next year.
Smith acknowledged that ``there's so little progress regionally'' in creating a multinational system, despite the two planned DART buoys.
DART links a pressure-measuring device that sits on the ocean floor to the buoy floating above. When higher pressure indicative of a tsunami is sensed, the information travels up to the buoy, which transmits it to monitoring stations.
The project, funded jointly by the U.S. and Thailand, will allow all countries in the network would simultaneously receive information from the buoy if they are connected to its telecommunications network, Smith said.
The biggest hurdle may be making sure warnings reach affected populations.
Governments have come under fire for failing to educate citizens about the threat of killer waves, bolster coastal infrastructure, and establish ways to pass along warnings to remote villages.