Lanka?s tsunami sensor not repaired since 2003
The tsunami-warning equipment gifted to Sri Lankan by Japan had been out of order since August 2003, and the authorities had not bothered to repair it, says disaster management expert Dr Ranijth Premalal De Silva.
"Sri Lanka does not need new equipment. It already has the necessary equipment at the University of Peradeniya in Kandy, gifted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. But the equipment had broken down in August 2003, and not repaired since then. A power failure had corrupted the software. But this could have been set right in a week's time. That, alas, was not done," he said.
Dr De Silva told Hindustan Times that Sri Lanka could have got two to two- and-a-half hour's warning if the equipment was working.
Of course, the data collected by the Peradeniya system would have had to be sent to California in the US for analysis, but this process would not have taken more than an hour, he said.
According to Dr De Silva, warnings were impossible only if the epicentre was very close.
In the case of the December 26 tsunami, where the epicentre was Sumatra, a fairly large time gap of an hour or two, was a distinct possibility.
In one or two hours, many people, in many places, could have been evacuated.
In many places in Sri Lanka only a mile or two from the coastline was affected. So, many people could have run to safety if a warning was there.
The broadband equipment at Peradeniya was linked to early warning centres in Anuradhapura, Batticaloa and Ruhuna.
Incidentally, Batticaloa in the east, and Ruhana, in the south, were badly hit by the tsunami.
If the equipment in Peradeniya were functioning, there would have been somebody monitoring it 24 hours over 365 days.
But since it had not been functioning, nobody was there, Dr De Silva said.