With an aim of avoiding a repeat of the 2004 catastrophe, India is building a tsunami early warning system in the South China Sea, which is likely to be operational in the next 10 months.
China is also building a similar tsunmai early warning centre in the South China Sea. The region currently gets alerts from Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC).
Two years ago, the issue of having such a system in the South China Sea was raised in a meeting with the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES), a Bangkok based 18-member multi-governmental organisation, of which India is also a member.
It was suggested that India should build capabilities of issuing early warning in an event of tsunami in the South China Sea, which was agreed upon by India. The South China Sea countries are also members of this organisation.
Currently, the Indian Tsunami Early Warning System (ITEWS) in Hyderabad is cross-checking the data it receives.
"After the 2004 tsunami, we had set up the ITEWS. We keep getting the data, so we have a system in place. Currently, we are cross-checking the data as giving correct information about when and where the tsunami will occur is paramount. This alone should take 3-4 months," Shailesh Nayak, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Science (MoES), told the PTI.
The next stage is setting up Bottom Pressure Recorder- the devices in the South China Sea that will record changing sea levels in an event of an earthquake- and setting up of tidal stations.
"For this, we would have to install these devices in the seas and this would require assistance from the countries in the region. The location for these devices is very important as it should neither be too far from fault line nor too close from it," the official added.
The South China Sea is over 3.5 lakh sq km area of disputed territorial waters that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan.
Six countries- China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines- stake claim over the sea and the Spratly archipelago.
India plans to take approval from Inter-governmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the United Nations body for ocean science, observatories, data and information exchange and other services such as Tsunami warning systems.
This would also help in better coordination and sharing of data with Indonesia and Australia.
Acting as one of the Regional Tsunami Advisory service Providers (RTSPs) for the Indian Ocean Region, ITEWS also provides tsunami advisories to the Indian Ocean rim countries along with Australia and Indonesia.
Last month, the IOC gave nod to China to build a similar warning system in the South China Sea. The centre will monitor an area encompassing the South China, Sulu and Sulawesi seas, bordering nine countries.
The region is known to be rich in hydrocarbons and is also an important Sea Line of Communication (SLOC). Sources pointed out that having a Tsunami early warning system in the South China Sea is also important for India because of its commercial and strategic interests in the region.
A massive earthquake measuring over nine on Richter scale struck the coast of Indonesia's Aceh province in December 2004, triggering an Indian Ocean tsunami that killed around 2.2 lakh people in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and nine other countries.