The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Big catch antenna up for big quake

New Delhi, Dec. 24: As most of India sleeps on Christmas night, two technicians might be awake and alert in a government building in Hyderabad, inside a room rigged with computers, telephones and hotlines to Delhi.

It’s an interim tsunami alert control room at the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) in Hyderabad, an institution that is set to become the nerve centre of India’s tsunami warning system about two years from now.

The technicians now on duty at INCOIS are expected to keep their eyes peeled for seismic events in the Indian Ocean region greater than magnitude 6 on the Richter scale. “When the graph touches 6 or higher, we start making calls,” a technician said.

A year after the tsunami, the most critical components of the proposed Rs 125-crore tsunami warning system are yet to be in place.

But, department of ocean development officials said, an interim system primarily relying on seismic data is already operational.

In ocean science circles, INCOIS is better known for its fisheries project that uses satellite images of the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea to identify zones in the sea abundant in fish. INCOIS then issues region-specific advisories that go to nearly 200 fishery co-operatives along the coastline.

The tsunami warning control centre at INCOIS will eventually receive data from pressure sensors on the seabed in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea and an array of tide gauges for sea level changes placed along the coastline.

The complete system ' at least 10 pressure sensors to detect the movement of any future tsunami, 50 tide gauges on the coast and satellite-based networks to carry data from these devices to the control centre ' is expected to be in place only by September 2007.

Sources said scientific research to model tsunami behaviour near Indian coasts to identify potential high-risk areas is yet to begin. An effective tsunami warning system will also require fresh recruitment of scientists for INCOIS, the sources said.

For the moment, the interim system depends on earthquake data from the Indian Meteorological Department. “We’ve upgraded the seismic information network. We can now get details of an earthquake in a region within 15 minutes instead of 40 minutes a year ago,” Valangiman Ramamurthy, the science and technology secretary said.

Ten tide gauges monitored by the National Institute of Ocean Technology in Chennai are now operational ' two are on the Andaman and Nicobar islands, the others are at Haldia, Kakinada, Chennai, Nagapattinam, Tuticorin, Vizhinjam (in Thiruvananthapuram), Kochi and Pipavav (Gujarat).

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