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Java tsunami tests warning systems -

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Java tsunami tests warning systems

AM - Tuesday, 18 July , 2006 08:26:00

Reporter: Karen Barlow

TONY EASTLEY: Seismologists say the event has been the first major test of Australia's tsunami
warning system since the 2004 Boxing Day catastrophe.

While the wave hit Christmas Island, no Australian island or mainland territory is known to have
suffered any damage, but emergency experts say Australia's tsunami warning system could do with
some fine-tuning.

Karen Barlow reports.

KAREN BARLOW: Geoscience Australia says the initial quake was a major tremor, but seismologist
David Jepsen says it pales next to the massive rupture which triggered the Boxing Day tsunami.

DAVID JEPSEN: Yeah, it's a major quake, but it's 1,000 times less energy than the big one that
occurred two years ago. So it's big, but it's not massive.

KAREN BARLOW: Still, last night's quake could have been felt within an eleven-hundred kilometre
radius of the epicentre and there have been numerous strong aftershocks.

David Jepsen from Geoscience Australia says the powerful activity triggered the region's emergency
response groups into action.

DAVID JEPSEN: We got an alert from our system. Also, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre generated a
bulletin that there could've been a potential tsunami.

This all got focussed both to the Bureau of Met and also Emergency Management Australia and that
information then they alerted the other islands of WA like Cocos and Christmas and the other
islands out that way, and also out to posts like DFAT and AusAID in Java and Jakarta and stuff like
that.

KAREN BARLOW: The Bureau of Meteorology soon recorded tide surges in the Indian Ocean. There was a
60 centimetre surge on its Christmas Island tide gauge, and a 10 centimetre surge near Cocos
Island.

With 20 minutes warning, more than 300 Christmas Island residents moved to higher ground.

But Shire President, Gordon Thomson says the island's volcanic structure spared the coastline from
damaging waves.

GORDON THOMSON: I think most people are pretty sure that we're not likely to be affected by a
tsunami. You need a continental shelf to kick up a wave and we've got 5,000 metres of water
surrounding our island and no continental shelf to speak of.

KAREN BARLOW: Gordon Thompson is concerned that the warning didn't reach everyone.

GORDON THOMSON: I think that with only 20 minutes warning, if there had been a tsunami then it's
likely that there could've been a problem, but there wasn't, so that's the comfort I draw.

KAREN BARLOW: David Jepsen from Geoscience Australia says emergency response groups will learn from
this event.

DAVID JEPSEN: There are things we need to improve, but in general I think the messages between the
different agencies went well. It's not good that these events happen, but they are good thing for a
test.

TONY EASTLEY: David Jepsen from Geoscience Australia ending that report from Karen Barlow.