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Buoy system fails during quake with high-tsunami probability

Area of the earthquake. Image by USGS



Environment Updates

Lack of maintenance sidelines tsunami warning system

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 4 March, 2016 - The buoy warning system installed after the devastating 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean failed this week when most needed.

On Wednesday a 7.8 earthquake, 800 km off the west coast of southern Sumatra, struck with what is termed a ‘large strike-slip earthquake’ - the kind of quake which produces tsunamis.

Consequently tsunami warnings for parts of Indonesia, Christmas Island, Cocos Islands and Western Australia were issued. But, the 22-buoy system was inoperable due to lack of maintenance and in some cases, vandalism.

Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told the New York Times that the inoperable buoys made it nearly impossible to detect a tsunami.

"That made it difficult to determine whether or not the quake triggered a tsunami," Sutopo said.

The system uses sensors on the ocean floor attached to buoys that transmit information to satellites. The information is then interpreted by scientists to determine the potential for a tsunami.

The warning system was installed a year after the 2004 tsunami killed 230,000 people in several countries across the Indian Ocean.

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