FIJI SEISMOLOGIST QUESTIONS TSUNAMI WARNING SYSTEM

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, May 4) – The Seismology Department in Fiji is questioning the effectiveness of an early warning system based at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii.

Seismologist Nilesh Kumar Jit said it took more than half an hour for a tsunami warning to be issued to the public in Fiji after it was released from Hawaii.

He said there was a "desperate need" for a dedicated early warning system for Fiji as the 30-minute warning delay "took just too long."

Deputy director of the Tonga National Disaster Office Mali'u Takai told the Associated Press his department did not receive adequate warning from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

"Nobody got a warning through the emergency satellite system in our meteorological office," Takai said. "Judging by the location of the epicenter we would have been caught without any warning at all because of the systems malfunction."

The early morning earthquake measured 8.0 on the Richter scale.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre says its first alert went out 16 minutes after the earthquake but it was not received in Tonga because of a power failure there.

Gerard Fryer, acting director, said, "There was a problem in Tonga where there was a power outage and they didn't get our initial message."

He said the center needs to work with Tonga to correct the problem and he did not know whether the earthquake caused the power failure.

Tonga has since felt two earthquakes termed as aftershocks, which was picked up by the U.S. Geological Survey. Their magnitude was between 5 and 5.2 on the Richter scale.

Seismologists from 12 Pacific Island States including Fiji are currently in Melbourne, Australia discussing the establishment of a $17million Early Warning System for the Pacific.

May 5, 2006

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com 

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