London, Nov 12 : Indonesia has launched an early warning system that uses seabed sensors, land-based seismometers and satellite positioning equipment, to broadcast tsunami warnings within minutes of an undersea earthquake.
According to a report in the Times, the system is known as the Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System, and has been built with German technology and funded by five foreign governments.
The system is designed to prevent a repeat of the tsunami disaster of 2004 when waves caused by an undersea earthquake killed a quarter of a million people across Asia.
About 170,000 of the victims on December 26, 2004, were in Indonesia's Aceh province, parts of which were inundated within 15 minutes of the earthquake.
Its victims received no warning. Many were children who had run towards the sea, which withdrew dramatically across the sand just before the fatal wave came.
In deep water, a tsunami travels at hundreds of miles an hour, as fast as a jet aircraft. It slows down in shallower parts and forms a wall of water as high as 30 metres.
Because of the geological conditions in Indonesia, the existing Pacific Tsunami Warning System does not react quickly enough.
But, the new system is intended eventually to provide warnings within five minutes, which will then be broadcast to coastal towns and villages.
"The central question is knowing how to interpret the data so that we can say with complete certainty that a tsunami is coming or not, and predicting what effect it will have," according to Stefan Dech, the director of the German Aerospace Centre.
"Other tsunami early-warning systems such as those that exist in the Pacific regularly issue false alarms," he added.