Australia Needs Indonesian Help to Guard Tsunami Warning Buoys

February 20, 2008

Australia wants the Indonesian navy to agree to help guard tsunami buoys from pirates searching for scrap metal before the early warning devises are floated in the Indian Ocean, an official said.

Australia’s Director of Meteorology, Geoff Love, told a Senate inquiry that Australia planned to place two tsunami buoys this year in international waters between Australia and Indonesia.

“We are negotiating an agreement with the Indonesian government to make sure that they don’t become the victims of pirates — scrap metal collectors,” Love told the inquiry, adding that government-owned meteorological equipment has been stolen off Australia’s north coast in the past.

“We’ve found (Australian) automatic weather stations for sale in Hong Kong — we don’t want that to happen again and so I’d like the Indonesians to have some ownership of these and the Indonesian navy” to protect them, he said.

A magnitude-9 quake off Sumatra’s coast in 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries, most of them in Indonesia.

Since then, Australia has begun building up its own tsunami warning center to detect and verify potential tsunami dangers in its region.

Love told the inquiry, which is conducting a routine investigation into Environment Department spending, that the first buoy had been placed southeast of Australia between Tasmania state and the southern island of New Zealand.

A second would be placed next month in the Coral Sea northeast of Australia between Queensland state and Vanuatu and a third was planned in the Tasman Sea off the east coast between Sydney and New Zealand’s north island.

Love said the Australians buoys in the Indian Ocean would help alert Indonesians to a tsunami threat in its southern waters while the United States was installing buoys in Indonesia’s northern waters.

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