Tomorrow (11 November), four years after the devastating tsunami hit the Indian Ocean, the German-Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System (GITEWS) will be launched. The early warning system will secure the Indonesian coast in the future with seismological stations, tide gauges and warning buoys. With 45 million euro, Germany is carrying the lion's share of the costs. The complex system was developed under the leadership of GFZ Potsdam, Germany's national research centre for geosciences.
Ahead of the inauguration celebrations, Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued the following statement today (10 November) in Berlin:
“This tsunami warning system is a milestone in disaster reduction policy. I'm glad we were able to keep our word and I thank all of the researchers and technicians for their work. The new system makes it possible to detect a tsunami and issue a warning within a very short amount of time. Now we have to work to ensure that the warning reliably reaches people across the country.”
The inauguration will be held tomorrow (11 November) in Jakarta by the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Thomas Rachel, Parliamentary Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and Paul Freiherr von Maltzahn, German Ambassador to Indonesia, will represent the Federal Government.
The early warning system is a German emergency tsunami assistance project. It is financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Japan, China, France, the USA and UNESCO also contributed to the system.
Due to the geological characteristics of tsunamis, warning times on the ground are often under 20 minutes. This is why especially advanced technology is necessary in order to quickly sound an alarm. 120 seismological stations (of which 16 are German) and 37 tide gauges (7 from Germany) have already been installed. 11 GPS stations (all from Germany) and 5 buoy systems (of which 2 are German) are currently operating. With this system the time it takes to detect an earthquake in the main warning centre in Jakarta is reduced to just a few minutes.
During an initial two-year development and optimization phase the system will be jointly operated by Germany and Indonesia. From 2010 on the Indonesian government will maintain the system on its own.
The Federal Foreign Office is working with the Federal Ministry for Education and Research and its partners to get other countries bordering the Indian Ocean to participate in this regional beacon project. Cooperation is already in place with Japan, South Africa and Australia. There are agreements with the Maldives and Yemen to build seismic stations. Talks with Sri Lanka are very advanced and preparations for cooperation with Thailand, Malaysia, Tanzania, Kenya and Madagascar are also underway. India already uses the SeisComP3 data processing system developed by GFZ to measure and evaluate earthquake data.
Improving disaster reduction measures in vulnerable regions is a major priority for the Federal Foreign Office. It allocates roughly 10 percent of its humanitarian aid specifically to disaster reduction projects.