7 Oct 2009

Disaster re-awakens interest in Fiji warning system

3:36 pm on 7 October 2009

A tsunami warning system which has been sitting in an electronics warehouse in Fiji for three years, is to be discussed next week by authorities concerned at a stalemate over installing the equipment.

The government disaster agency DISMAC has organised a meeting to try and make progress.

Radio New Zealand International reports Safeway Electronics director Tauz Khan was nominated to buy a system of sirens as part of the government's response to an earthquake in the Pacific three years ago.

Mr Khan says the sirens can be activated by text message and have a range of 4km.

However, financial constraints have caused ongoing delays.

Now, new interest is being taken in the scheme since the Samoa disaster.

Mr Khan says the disaster agency is trying to raise funding from private industries to help pay for the installation right across Fiji.

But he says "we'll have to wait and see whether it's going to fizzle out or something will be done."

Vodofone and hotels have already offered help. However, Vodafone says testing of the sirens happened years ago and funds budgeted for the warning system have now been reallocated to other community projects.

But corporate affairs manager Shalendra Prasad says the company is still open to any tsunami warning system that the government wants to come up with.

Disaster Management Officer Viliame Tuimanu says seeing the devastation and cost of the recent tsunami in Samoa has prompted long overdue action and he hopes next week's meeting can make more progress with the installation of the sirens.

However, he says no matter what system is in place, people have to pay attention and act on any warning of a looming natural disaster.

Mr Tuimanu says he hopes there will now be more government money available for disaster preparations.