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Tsunami alert first step in Delhi

New Delhi, Jan. 21: A tsunami-warning system is likely to be ready in two years, top scientists said today at a workshop organised by the Indian National Science Academy.

Soon after the killer waves ravaged the Indian coastline, science and technology minister Kapil Sibal had said the government was working towards installing a monitoring and warning system in the Indian Ocean to detect tsunamis.

At today's workshop, the project was given a shape as scientists came up with a rough blueprint.

A tsunami-warning system already exists in the Pacific region, which has seen 700 tsunamis in the last 100 years compared to two or three in the Indian Ocean. Sibal said the monitoring system will work in tandem with the Pacific system.

The device, known as Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DART), will cost between Rs 100 crore and Rs 125 crore. Approximately 10-12 DARTs will be installed in the Indian Ocean between Java\Sumatra and Myanmar.

The science and technology minister said all the key elements of the system are likely to be in place by March 2006 and the system will start functioning by 2007.

According to Harsh Gupta, secretary of the ocean development department, there are two known 'tsunamigenic zones' ' areas where undersea earthquakes could produce tsunamis. One of these areas is south of the Andaman and Nicobar region and the other is near the coast of Baluchistan in Pakistan.

'We can't predict when tsunamis will occur, but we need a warning system there, too,' said scientists at the two-day workshop.

The system involves deploying instruments on the seabed in the Bay of Bengal and the northern Arabian Sea. It will harness India's software and space technology by which instruments on the seabed will send the information to floating buoys which would in turn relay data about waves to satellites for transmission to control stations on the ground.

Vinod Gaur, a scientist at the Centre for Mathematical Modelling in Bangalore, said the Kutch area also needs attention because geological history suggests it is prone to big earthquakes.

The pressure sensors to be deployed on the ocean bed are expensive but U.R. Rao, the former chief of the space department, said space scientists had extensive experience in developing pressure sensors and it would not be a problem.

Tad Murthy, the Indian-born scientist who played a role in setting up the Canadian tsunami-warning system, said he was not sure what role he could play.

'But I was invited to attend the meeting and I will be glad to help out,' he said.

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