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But for a phone line

NEW YORK, DEC. 30. A working telephone line in a specialised seismographic station in the Indonesian island of Java could have provided an early warning about the deadly tsunamis set off by a huge earthquake and might have saved lives in India and Sri Lanka, a media report said today.

But the monitoring station lacked the telephone connection needed to relay news of the impending disaster to Jakarta, news@nature.com said.

A seismograph designed to detect earthquakes that cause tsunamis was installed on the island of Java in 1996, but the data it collected was not sent to the central government in Jakarta because the telephone line had been disconnected since 2000, it reported.

Better-equipped warning systems elsewhere also failed to alert the relevant authorities. A network of seabed pressure sensors and seismographs, run by the United Nations, can detect Pacific Ocean tsunamis within minutes, the report said.

The system issued a warning about the earthquake 15 minutes after it was detected, but the network is designed to serve countries around the Pacific Ocean, such as the United States and Australia. Officials in charge were unable to reach authorities in the Indian Ocean nations. Officials in Jakarta were alerted about the earthquake that caused the giant waves by readings from the country's other 60 or so seismographs, but a lack of data from the specialised Java station prevented them from issuing a tsunami warning, Nanang Puspito, head of the earthquake laboratory at the Bandung Institute of Technology in Indonesia, was quoted as saying.

— PTI

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