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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 9:46 p.m., Tuesday, June 12, 2007

State officials tour Jakarta tsunami center

By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Staff Writer

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Tsunami experts, state representatives and National Guard members toured the tsunami warning center in Jakarta today, which has transformed over the past two years into a state-of-the-art, 24-hour facility.

The December 2004 tsunami rocked Indonesia, killing more than 120,000 residents and spurring a concerted effort to concentrate on tsunami preparedness. Countries around the world pledged their support, while Hawai'i experts also offered up their knowledge.

Hawai'i has one of the most sophisticated tsunami-warning systems in the world.

Charles McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in 'Ewa Beach, said he has had a host of discussions with Indonesians since 2004 to get their country tsunami-ready. He said the tsunami center in Jakarta is now well on its way to becoming a world-class facility. Still, he added, "Indonesia has a big challenge in front of it."

The first task in setting up a warning system for Indonesia was installing earthquake sensors, which could help predict a tsunami. So far, thanks to funds from Indonesia, there are 73 operational sensors scattered across the country and nearly 90 more are set to be placed by the end of 2008, officials at the Indonesia Bureau of Metereological Geophysics said. The organization oversees the warning center.

Meanwhile, Indonesia has two tsunami warning buoys in the water and three others will go in before the end of the year, said P.J. Prih Harjadi, of the warning center.

"The system is not completely finished yet, but we have already arrived at a center step," he said, after a briefing and a 15-minute tour. "We still have to reach for the ideal."

The briefing was held with tsunami experts, who gave presentations on the issues facing their communities. Gov. Linda Lingle attended the briefing, but had to go to another appointment and so did not have time to see the revamped warning center.

The center has received millions of dollars from countries around the world, including the United States, to buy new equipment and hire more staff members. The funds help staff the center 24 hours a day, where it was earlier only staffed during certain hours.

Advertiser Staff Writer Mary Vorsino is accompanying Gov. Linda Lingle on her visit to Indonesia for meetings with tsunami experts and government officials on emergency preparedness. Look for her news posts and leave comments on her blog at www.honoluluadvertiser.com, and full reports in The Advertiser.