Australia Opens National Tsunami Warning Center

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Australia became an integral link in a network of tsunami warning hubs across the Indian and Pacific oceans with the official opening of a national monitoring center Friday.

The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Center that opened in the southern city of Melbourne joins India as a "tsunami watch provider" for 29 countries on the Indian Ocean rim that are prone to the killer waves, said Ray Canterford, head of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's disaster mitigation office.

Work on the 69 million Australian dollar ($46 million) center developed by the government was launched six months after the catastrophic 2004 tsunami.

It will provide essential sea level and seismic data to the Pacific warning network to Southwest Pacific island nations. This data is critical to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii and the Japanese Meteorological Agency in Tokyo, Canterford said.

Eventually, there will be a network of several countries on the Indian Ocean rim with their own tsunami warning centers sharing scientific data, he said.

"We're actually enhancing the capabilities of other countries in the Pacific and in the Indian Ocean," he said.

The center relies on high-tech deep sea buoys, five of which are located northwest of Australia below Indonesia, one in northeast of Australia in the Coral Sea and two in the Tasman Sea off the southeast coast.

Indonesia, which bore the brunt of the 2004 tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people, is expected to have its own national warning center fully operational by the end of the year, Canterford said.

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