Mediterranean needs tsunami warning system

23rd May 2006, Comments 0 comments

NICE, France, May 22, 2006 (AFP) - An international group of experts said Monday that the Mediterranean region is woefully unaware of the need for an early tsunami warning system.

NICE, France, May 22, 2006 (AFP) - An international group of experts said Monday that the Mediterranean region is woefully unaware of the need for an early tsunami warning system.

"The countries concerned ought to go along with us and be aware of the need for a Mediterranean warning system," said François Schindele, a member of an inter-governmental coordination group for such a system for the Mediterranean and northeast Atlantic.

"At present a sense of awareness is clearly lacking," he warned at a news conference in this French Mediterranean city.

The inter-governmental panel, launched last year at the initiative of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), was holding its second session here.

"The crux of the problem is to define the main early warning centres, of which there ought to be at least two in the Mediterranean area, and to provide funding for their permanent operation," Schindele said.

The idea is to be able to reduce to between five and 10 minutes from the present 30 minutes to one hour the time between an earthquake occurring and the assessment of a tsunami risk, the official said.

Tsunamis are less frequent in the Mediterranean than in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, but have been registered in the Mediterranean and the northeast Atlantic, for example that of 1755 which destroyed Lisbon.

On December 26, 2004, an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale struck off the Indonesian province of Aceh, unleashing a tsunami that killed 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean.

"The movement of large oceanic waves is much faster in the Mediterranean than in the Pacific, scarcely an hour from north Africa to the northern shores of the Mediterranean basin," warned Patricio Bernal, executive secretary of UNESCO's international oceanographic commission.

UNESCO would like an early warning system to be in place by the end of next year.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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