More than 20 killed in Indonesia quake

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Jakarta, Sep 20: Indonesia will install a third tsunami detection buoy off the coast of earthquake-prone Sumatra, an official said today, after a strong quake killed more than 20 people and damaged thousands of homes there last week.

The government decided to set up a warning system after a huge earthquake in December 2004 off Sumatra triggered a devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean. More than 230,000 people in the region were killed or went missing, including 170,000 Indonesians.

Indonesia, which is situated on a belt of intense seismic activity known as the ''Pacific Ring of Fire'', aims to have 11 tsunami detecting buoys in operation by the end of 2007.

The authorities deployed two buoys off Sumatra island in 2005, but they have been dogged by technical problems. The US embassy will hand over the latest buoy, funded by the United States, to Indonesian officials later today. It will then be shipped to the western coast of Sumatra for installation, according to an official at the research and technology ministry.

The 8.4 magnitude quake that struck off the coast of western Sumatra last week was followed by a series of strong aftershocks, and set off tsunami warnings in Indonesia and other countries in the region. More than 20 people were killed and at least 100 were injured in Indonesia in the quake, but there were no reports of a devastating tsunami.

In many parts of Indonesia, people rely on warnings sent out via mosque loudspeakers or simple village gongs. The government's tsunami warning project aims to deliver tsunami alerts within five minutes of an undersea quake, but experts say that cannot be achieved until the archipelago of 17,000 islands has installed at least 22 buoys, 120 tide gauges with digital recordings, and 160 seismographs.

The project has attracted some international support but implementation and funding has been slow. Officials say the project needs 120 million dollars to cover equipment costs alone.


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