Australia, 26 December 2006 – A tsunami warning system has been officially launched in Canberra. The $21.2 million Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (ATWC) based at GeoScience Australia is a world class monitoring system designed to detect high impact tsunami’s reaching countries in the Asia Pacific region.
The new centre will monitor 39 Australian and 70 international monitoring stations, a vast increase on the previous system according to GeoScience Australia Chief Executive Dr Neil Williams. “Before this project came along we were capturing a couple of stations around the world, now it is 70 and I’m sure we will increase that number in the future,” he said.
Senior Seismologist at Geoscience Australia Dr Phil Cummins said the old system did not have the capabilities of detecting the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. “Our previous system was not adequate to look at earthquakes of that size; in 2004 our system was only designed to deal with much smaller earthquakes in Australia,” he said. Dr Cummins said the new centre would now have the potential to save thousands of lives.
“There were tens of thousands of people in Thailand and Sri Lanka who didn’t get hit by the tsunami until two-to-four hours after the earthquake occurred. They’re the kind of people that this warning centre is aimed to protect. If this system was in place we could have saved thousands of lives,” he said.
Dr Cummins said although Australia was in a much safer geographical area than Sri Lanka and Thailand, there was a likelihood that a high impact tsunami could devastate the west coast of Australia in our lifetime.
Operating 24 hours a day, the new centre is now able to initiate a tsunami warning response time instantly. Working in conjunction with the Bureau of Meteorology the new centre aims to deliver a tsunami warning to the Australian Emergency Services who will then deliver the message to the public within ninety minutes.