Scientists spot quake within five minutes
13 September 2007, Berlin (AFP) - German researchers said they measured the size and location of Wednesday's earthquake off Indonesia within a record five minutes in a development that could mean the difference between life and death for people in the path of a tsunami.
13 September 2007
Berlin (AFP) - German researchers said they measured the size and location of Wednesday's earthquake off Indonesia within a record five minutes in a development that could mean the difference between life and death for people in the path of a tsunami.
"We managed to get the information in under five minutes yesterday," Professor Joachim Zschau from Germany's national research centre for geoscience (GFZ) in Potsdam outside Berlin, told AFP on Thursday.
"In the past this was not possible, we could get it at best in under a quarter of an hour to half an hour," he said.
The German reaction time on Wednesday was more than 10 minutes faster than the alert raised by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii, which measures earthquakes around the ocean's massive faultline.
"The difference in time is really important because the challenge is to warn people away from the coastline within minutes. It takes 10 to 20 minutes before a tsunami hits the coastline," he said.
"If you have the information this soon after the earthquake hits, you could get information to hotels and villages and avert a potential disaster."
The 8.4-magnitude quake that struck off the west coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island was measured with software that the Germans had been developing even before the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster which killed 168,000 people in the island's Aceh province alone.
The GFZ's Alexander Rudloff said information was relayed via satellite from 11 measuring stations in the ocean to computers in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, where staff alerted the authorities.
The software system, called the "SeisComP", has been installed at various points around Indonesia as part of a new warning system that should be completed by 2008, he said.
One of two components that must still be added to the detection system is a way of measuring where in the ocean a tsunami begins and where it will hit the coast.
Zschau said the software had only been installed in recent weeks and his group was "relieved" that it passed a baptism of fire in the series of powerful quakes that has struck in the Pacific around Indonesia since late Wednesday.
At least 10 people have died and some 200 homes have been damaged or destroyed, but fears that large-scale destruction mirroring the events of 2004 have so far proved unfounded.
The latest quake hit off the northern tip of Sulawesi Island early on Thursday, like the earlier ones triggering a tsunami warning that was soon cancelled.
Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla on Thursday said the nation was better prepared than in the past to deal with earthquakes and tsunami threats.
Subject: German news