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Broken tsunami warning system wastes millions

The Local · 18 Oct 2011, 14:24

Published: 18 Oct 2011 14:24 GMT+02:00

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According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the buoys are meant to be on the high seas off Indonesia as part of an early warning system conceived after the devastating 2004 tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people.

But at least one has been lost after a ship ran into it, while several more are still waiting to be deployed. Officials have lost contact with others because Indonesian authorities apparently haven’t maintained them correctly.

“All the infrastructure was handed over in March, so the responsibility now lies with the Indonesians,” said Jörn Lauterjung of Potsdam’s German Centre for Geosciences, who helped lead the project.

But even if the buoys could be made to function, the entire project might be a waste of money because existing land-based seismic equipment already does a good job of detecting incoming tsunamis.

“In my opinion, is the cost-benefit factor is so bad that one should abstain from offshore buoy systems,” Ulrich Wolf, head of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, told Focus magazine.

Indonesian officials disagree and say they’d like the buoys to be repaired. They told German TV network ARD that their country was being put at risk.

Story continues below…

“The buoys are the heart of the system," a government official said. "They are urgently needed if one wants to know whether there really is a tsunami."

The Local/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:57 October 18, 2011 by Englishted
Why did Germany do it in the first place?
18:45 October 18, 2011 by MichaelMolenaar
Horrendous waste of money. Europe's finanicial system is on the rocks and Germany is spending money to help a bunch of south pacificers tell if the waves are coming? And they can't even maintain them? Utter madness.
19:49 October 18, 2011 by AnoyedBrit
First off, I would like to notice that one should not trust single newspaper information about scientific projects (especially if the are only a short article). However there are things of value I have to add. This project was started directly after the tsunami in 2004 [1]. The GFZ started it and finished it in 2008 [2], in the framework of a project with the IOC. It is not clear if they changed their mind telling today that it is to expensive - it was their framework the project took place in.

There is a description [3],[4] of the buoys out, which tells a bit about their use. They should do two things, first of all increase the time you have to evacuate (one early estimate was that it could nearly double it, but this was only an estimate pre-installation) and secondly - the more important one [5] - it reduces the uncertainty were the waves will hit and if the waves will hit at all. This means that you can say much easier if you have to start an emergency operation or not. This can save lives and a lot of money, since the decision will be more easy.

The project is also a part of a larger system to evaluate whether there is danger or not.

(Deleted the links because it looked like spam... they can be found on Reddit regarding this topic)
21:39 October 18, 2011 by nolibs
If Asia wants this system...let them build and finance it on their own.
06:33 October 19, 2011 by auniquecorn
Good article,

they don't work and even if they did they might be useless,

Sounds like the german govt.
10:10 October 19, 2011 by freechoice
Indonesia is an oil rich state. It should pickup the tabs for maintaining those buoys.
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