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Cabinet to discuss ocean early warning plan
By Cao Desheng and Qin Jize (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-16 23:45

Reacting to the recent tsunami tragedy, several governmental departments have submitted a joint plan to the State Council to upgrade the nation's oceanic disaster early warning system for final examination and approval.

An effort of the State Oceanic Administration, Chinese State Seismological Bureau and China Meteorological Administration, the plan was developed on the basis of the country's existing natural disaster early warning system.

Li Xiaoming, a senior official at the State Oceanic Administration, said the revamped plan should be able to avert another tragedy on the scale of the tsunami disaster.

"We will upgrade the system by improving communication networks and the establishment of a co-ordinating system," he said.

Li said what is missing is public awareness and national disaster planning essential to alert large populations quickly.

He said it is key to educate people on how to help themselves and to rapidly evacuate from dangerous areas.

He said the tsunami catastrophe in the Indian Ocean has also prompted the country to step up its oceanic research.

"The construction of an early warning system is the focus of the current work," he said.

The National Natural Science Foundation of China plans to increase its economic input into marine disaster prevention research, State Oceanic Administration officials said.

Additional efforts will be made particularly in the fields of monitoring, warning technology and information distribution, said Yu Fujiang from the National Marine Environment Forecast Centre at the administration.

The computerized system can detect signals within two to three minutes following tsunamis occurring, he said.

"But it still has large room for improvement in transmitting the information to would-be, disaster-hit areas," Yu said.

Currently, Yu's centre can only deliver messages to the provincial oceanic administrations, which, in turn, undertake disaster-prevention moves.

The country's oceanic research is weaker than its efforts on the land or the atmosphere studies, said Wang Pinxian, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

A lot of earthquakes on land are actually caused by sea bed quakes, and can cause heavy damage, said Wang, who conducts maritime geological studies at the Shanghai-based Tongji University.

Some earthquakes taking place in the deep oceans might be felt only through their tsunami aftermath, said the academician.

According to Wang, China has allocated 5 billion yuan (US$600 million) for ocean research during the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-05).

In 1983, China joined the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii of the United States, an international organization involving 26 member countries and aiming at providing warnings for teletsunamis to most countries along the Pacific areas.

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