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Tsunami Warning System Stripped, Sold for Parts

BY NURDIN HASAN
(THE JAKARTA GLOBE)

Banda Aceh, TAG – Days after Aceh dodged a bullet when two massive earthquakes failed to trigger a potentially devastating tsunami, it emerged that the country’s tsunami early warning system has been compromised by scavengers stealing and selling its parts.
Research and Technology Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta said some of the instruments from the system had parts missing, while other instruments had just disappeared.
He said people were stealing the parts and then selling them. “There are a lot of people stealing parts from the tsunami early warning system, leading the device to malfunction,” he said as quoted by Antara state news agency.
The system includes buoys off the coast of Sumatra with sensors that can detect an approaching tsunami. Gusti said the government was working with the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) and the US government to develop submerged devices.
“We hope that it will be safer this way. People will no longer be able to steal the parts,” he said. “We are also going to educate people about the equipment because it is essential to detect a tsunami early, and have the equipment working.”
A tsunami warning was issued on Wednesday after two powerful earthquakes jolted the Indian Ocean off the coast of Aceh.
They were centered on the same fault line as the 2004 quake that triggered the tsunami that killed 220,000 people in the region. About 170,000 of the deaths were reported in Aceh.
The trauma of the tsunami more than seven years ago sent residents in Aceh scrambling for their lives on Wednesday, even after the tsunami warning was lifted hours later.
Vice President Boediono, who visited Aceh to assess the aftermath of the quakes, said the government was intent on creating a better tsunami warning system. The one set up after the 2004 quake was paid for by donors.
“I still hear of a number of problems, like the sirens not working and buoys that are not connected to the satellites. These need to be fixed,” he said on Friday. “I hope other areas, like Mentawai and Padang, can also be alert.”
The Mentawai island chain was ravaged by a tsunami in 2010 while Padang suffered heavy damage in a 2009 earthquake.
Five elderly people died in the aftermath of Wednesday’s quakes, reportedly from shock or heart attacks, according to the Aceh Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD).
Amid the ensuing panic and tsunami scare, 63 prisoners escaped Sigli prison in Pidie district but 31 were recaptured.
Sigli warden Djoko Budi Setianto said three more were arrested on Friday and that the remaining 29 were still on the run.
“Prisoners and detainees who have not returned are being treated as fugitives,” he said.[]
Tsunami Warning System Stripped, Sold for Parts Tsunami Warning System Stripped, Sold for Parts Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on April 13, 2012 Rating: 5

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