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Sunday, 13 February 2005  
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Prioritising warning systems to mitigate disaster

by Lionel Yodhasinghe

Educating the local community on risk management and implementing an emergency warning system are two vital requirements to reduce the death toll of natural disasters in the future, Local and International experts of disaster mitigation joining a video conference in Colombo said on Thursday.

In a presentation of a Concept Paper on National All-Hazards Warning System for Sri Lanka prepared by Lirneasia in which experts of tsunami, earthquake and communication put their heads together, they insisted that the Government should implement it with private sector participation to reduce the damage to life and property after the December 26 tsunami took about 40,000 lives.

Unless it is ensured of such a system, even rebuilding the destroyed economy specially tourism is difficult because no tourist wants to come for a holiday and die, Dr. Peter Anderson, a specialist in emergency communication and Director of Telematics Research Lab, School of Communication at Simon Fraser University said. He visited the tsunami affected areas before he co-authored the concept paper.

Tsunami specialist and advisor to Hawaii Civil Defence Authorities from University of Hawaii Prof. George D. Curtis said Hawaii was prepared to face tsunami after it was first hit in 1946 killing 760 and the death toll was reduced to 59 in the second tsunami in 1960 as a result of the preparedness with an emergency warning and monitoring system.

He said Hawaii centre is well equipped today to send emergency messages to all respective stakeholders including media, military, rescue operations, hotels, schools and even individuals at the click of a button to enable them to evacuate people from the vulnerable areas.

The concept paper is still open for submissions and the full report could be seen on or

When asked how such system is implemented where the basic telecommunication infrastructure is not freely available in certain areas such as Eastern province including mobile phones, Director of Lirneasia Prof.Rohan Samarajeeva said that the congestion on such emergency situation is unavoidable as many people try to use the line.

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