Paris pushes Reunion for tsunami alert centre

16th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

SAINT DENIS, Reunion, Jan 16 (AFP) - France could set up a UN global natural disaster centre to alert countries about tsunamis and other catastrophic phenomena on its Reunion island in the Indian Ocean, a junior French foreign minister suggested on the weekend.

SAINT DENIS, Reunion, Jan 16 (AFP) - France could set up a UN global natural disaster centre to alert countries about tsunamis and other catastrophic phenomena on its Reunion island in the Indian Ocean, a junior French foreign minister suggested on the weekend.

The centre would fulfil the need exposed by last month's killer waves triggered by an undersea earthquake that killed more than 160,000 people in large part because countries on the Indian Ocean received no alert, French Cooperation Minister Xavier Darcos said Saturday.

It would expand on an existing alert network already operating for just the Pacific Ocean and based in Hawaii, and would meet a call from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for a global warning system to be established.

French President Jacques Chirac was to throw his support behind the idea in a message to a UN disaster limitation conference in Japan that starts Tuesday, Darcos said.

"The government is proposing that Reunion island hosts the global prevention and warning system for all environmental risks, including for the whole Indian Ocean zone," he told AFP on a visit to Reunion after a UN conference in Mauritius on island development.

Financing for the network would come from international aid funds for countries hit by disasters, he suggested.

"Reunion island already has a powerful and competent scientific base, especially in terms of meteorological studies," Darcos said.

"This existing centre needs only to be reinforced and expanded to cover all environmental risks by installing relay equipment in the countries concerned, equipment able to supply data transmitted by satellite."

Such a centre would be under the responsibility of the United Nations, either directly or through its UN World Meteorological Organisation, he said.

The 12 countries worst affected by the December 26 tsunamis that rolled into their coasts could have greatly reduced their death tolls if they had received and acted on warnings about the huge masses of seawater were heading their way, experts say.

Seismologists in Australia and the United States reportedly tried to telephone officials in Indonesia and Sri Lanka to warn them that the huge seaquake had created the tsunamis, but there was no formal hotline system to get the calls noticed in time.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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