by Wang Fengfeng, Chen Ming
PORT LOUIS, Jan. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- No one has an idea
how many lives could be saved if there was a global system to warn the people
across the Indian Ocean of surging tidal waves less than three weeks ago. Such
heavy loss of human lives in such a manner is not likely to happen again after
2007, set by UNESCO to launch a widely talked about global tsunami early warning
A global tsunami early warning system could be in place
by June,2007, and such a regional system for the Indian Ocean, costing some 30
million US dollars could be ready one year earlier, Koichiro Matsuura, director
general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO), said Wednesday in a press conference on the sidelines of a small
island meeting in Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.
"If all goes well, an initial system for the Indian
Ocean (hit hard by a devastating tsunami) could be in place by June, 2006,"
Matsuura said, noting the global system of tsunami early warning can be
operational "a year later, if all goes well."
UNESCO announced Tuesday it is to team up with the
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to set up a global watch-out system for
tsunamis in Mauritius, where the small island developing states are convening to
ponder on the future of their fragile economy and ecosystem, and even their very
existence after the devastating tsunami that killed over 150,000 people across
the Indian Ocean barely two weeks ago.
The devastating tsunami, triggered by a huge
underground earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra Island, swept through the Indian
Ocean, leaving a trail of destruction from Thailand to Somalia. It also puts
urgency to the UN International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the
Program of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing
States, as such disasters challenge the very existence of the small islands.
Matsuura said the Indian Ocean system is to cost
approximately 30 million dollars, "excluding maintenance."
Admitting the amount is "peanut" comparing to the
damage of the tsunami, Matsuura said when UNESCO proposed the global early
warning system years ago, "concerned governments didn't act ... donor didn't
act." And the world learnt the lesson in a "very costly way."
According to the UN agency, the global warning system
"goes far beyond the installation of seismic equipment to measure and pinpoint
Experts at monitoring sites as far away as Hawaii and
Vienna knew immediately after the earthquake took place off the coast of Sumatra
on December 26, triggering the devastating tsunami in Indian Ocean.
However, the missing link in the global chain of such
network is the "communication networks, public awareness and national disaster
planning that are essential to alert population quickly, to teach people what
they can do to help themselves, to rapidly evacuate threatened areas and to look
after the immediate needs of the wounded or displaced," Matsuura said.
No warning system was there to alert the Indian Ocean
countries and allow them to take actions, even though scientist elsewhere knew
about the tsunami, resulting in huge losses.
Matsuura said the system in Indian Ocean is to copy the
successful model of the tsunami warning system in Pacific Ocean, set up by
UNESCO some 40 years ago, and regional centers are to be established, but they
"haven't identified" a country to host the Indian Ocean headquarters as yet.
The UN official said below the regional network, every
country is to set up its national strategy and a national system of early
He said he must ask countries concerned to make their
own national strategy and set up their national system of early warning. Then,
communication channels to spread the information to people concerned must be
established. People's awareness and preparedness to act quickly must also be
Matsuura said the UN agency is to invite national
experts and experts from other international organizations to participate in a
meeting in March, in Paris, and discuss what kind of global system is to be put
in place. UNESCO is also to send expert teams to help set up the system.
Although the world is now focused on an early warning
system in the Indian Ocean, but other places are also at stake, stressing the
importance of global action, the director general said.
"Any early warning system, to be truly effective, must
therefore be global in scope," Matsuura said earlier in a press release.
"Minimizing their (tsunami) impact requires cooperation
and collaboration between a rage of partners that go beyond the borders of any
one state," he said.
Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the WMO, said
earlier several countries have made pledges to help build the system, noting
those who want to participate are looking forward to "proper coordination," not
acting on their own.
The small island countries, about 40 of them
represented in the Mauritius conference, are worried about natural disasters, as
some of them were devastated during the tsunami, such as Maldives.
Delegates are to "seriously reflect on concrete recommendations regarding the setting up of early warning systems and methods of operating them," said Mauritian Prime Minister Paul Raymond Berenger, who is also the president of the meeting. Enditem