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What the international community is doing

An international seminar entitled 'How Thailand and the neighbouring countries will become ready for tsunami' was held on 31 January in Bangkok.

Participants, including representatives from the Thai government and the British Geological Survey, discussed government policy on tsunamis, environmental rehabilitation of their effects and warning and mitigation systems.

Attendees agreed to build a permanent early warning system in the Indian Ocean to be operational within 12 to 18 months. At various meetings after the disaster, representatives of several countries and organisations clashed over the location of a coordination centre.

There has been agreement to set up smaller regional facilities instead and that a UN agency, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, should coordinate a decentralised network.

The most technologically capable countries in the region, including Australia, India, Indonesia and Thailand, could develop a system similar to that of the US for the Pacific. Some countries from outside the affected area, including the US and Germany, have offered to help install a tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean.

The UK is not involved in such a system, but is concentrating on mitigation and recovery efforts.

A spokesman for the BGS, David Ovadia, says the organisation is mainly concerned with the prevention of groundwater contamination and is helping in the recovery process. He said the BGS is conducting a marine survey, looking at images of the surface bed and fault, and trying to understand what happened.

The tsunami claimed a total of 300,000 lives when it struck on 26 December.

It hit several countries around the Indian Ocean.

The worst affected of these was the northern Sumatran province of Bande Aceh which was closest to the epicentre.

Other countries that suffered the effects of the tsunami include Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Maldives, Myanmar and Bangladesh, and, on the other side of the Indian Ocean, Somalia, Tanzania, and Kenya.

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