01 September, 2006

Community Tsunami Early Warning Center in Sri Lanka

"We feel safe now, because the people in this center are continuously monitoring, and the lights are on 24 hours," said 63-year-old Sri Lankan grandmother L.H. Aryawathi, who lives in a shack donated by the United Nations in the southern town of Perali, Sri Lanka.

But the government does not want ad-hoc tsunami warning centers handing out advice to local communities. "Only the Met Department is authorized to give tsunami warnings and evacuation orders. They cannot do it. It is illegal. That creates unnecessary panic," said Meteorology Department Director Gardi Darmaratne.

More than a year and a half have passed since a tsunami left 230,000 people dead or missing across Asia, including 35,000 in Sri Lanka. But there is still no pan-Asian tsunami warning system. So residents in Peraliya, where around 1,000 people died when a passenger train was swamped by the tsunami and dozens of locals were swept to their deaths, have taken matters into their own hands. Roshan Waduthantri and seven residents take turns to monitor the airwaves, cable television channels and earthquake warning Web sites around the clock at their own Community Tsunami Early Warning Center

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