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Tsunami drill in SE Asia

Sirens wailed and mosque loudspeakers ordered residents of the capital of Aceh province to seek safety as Indonesia kicked off an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami practice drill on Wednesday.

world Updated: Oct 15, 2009 00:02 IST

Sirens wailed and mosque loudspeakers ordered residents of the capital of Aceh province to seek safety as Indonesia kicked off an Indian Ocean-wide tsunami practice drill on Wednesday.

Conducted in 18 countries, the exercise, a UN-backed initiative to test the warning systems and overall preparedness of nations in the region, was supposed to simulate the magnitude 9.15 quake that struck off Aceh on December 26, 2004 and triggered a huge tsunami.

About 230,000 people died (170,000 in Aceh alone) as the tsunami raced across the Indian Ocean and hit Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.

In Aceh, several hundred took part in the simulation. “I’m still traumatised from the (2004) tsunami,” said Halimah, 43, who watched the drill but did not take part. “If there’s another disaster, I prefer to take shelter in the mosque so that if I die, I’d die in the mosque.”

Officials from Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency in Jakarta issued the test earthquake warning, sending out the notification of a major quake off the coast of Aceh via a telephone text message, followed by a tsunami warning.

People with mock bandages were carried on stretchers, while others pretended to be dead.

Since the 2004 tsunami, early warning systems ranging from beach loudspeaker sirens to deep ocean monitor buoys have been set up at a cost of about $150 million, an official said.