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Germany

Germans Want Lead Role in Alert System

Germany said Saturday that it was prepared to lead efforts to help set up a tsunami alert system for the Indian Ocean within three years, relying on the use of e-mails and mobile phone text messages.

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Tsunami warning systems have long existed in the Pacific Ocean

"Germany should take the lead in establishing a tsunami alert system in South Asia," a spokeswoman for the German Education and Research Ministry said in the wake of the Dec. 26 quake and resulting tsunamis that killed around 160,000 people across the Indian Ocean.

She added that the federally-funded Geophysical Research Center (GFZ) in the eastern city of Potsdam had been tasked with looking into the idea.

Frau mit SMS Handy

People living in endangered areas would receive text messages on their mobile phones

Under the plan, should a quake occur, an alert would be given within minutes on the Internet, triggering the automatic dispatch of e-mails and mobile phone text messages to all users connected on the network, including government agencies, hotels and individuals, German Research Minister Edelgard Bulmahn told the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

"It's the fastest system in the world to alert people," she said.

Relying on existing networks

The daily said Saturday that the German idea was to be put forward at upcoming international conferences.

Bundesforschungsministerin Edelgard Bulmahn

Edelgard Bulmahn

"With our concept, we will be able to come up with an effective system within one to three years at a cost of €40 million ($52 million)," Bulmahn (photo) told the paper. "The strength of our concept is that it relies on already existing observation networks, so we don't have to start from scratch."

GFZ runs a seismological research center in partnership with several institutes and linked with other international networks and would like it to cover the Indian Ocean region.

Bulmahn said that under the German plan, 30 to 40 new seismological observation stations would be built to collect relevant data and their number would later be increased to 250 in cooperation with donor countries.

Fischer thanks Thai people

In Bangkok, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer meanwhile on Saturday thanked the Thai people for helping foreign tourists after the deadly tsunami struck, on the start of his visit here to witness the devastation.

"We highly appreciate what many Thai people, who suffered terribly, did for our people" in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, Fischer told reporters after meeting with his Thai counterpart, Surakiart Sathirathai.

Thai residents of resort areas in the southern provinces hit by the killer waves opened their homes to tourists washed out of their hotels, in many cases offering food and clothing to people whose possessions were swept away.

Unprecedented donations

In Germany, the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster sparked an unprecedented outpouring of donations from the public and companies, which together have pledged more than €330 million ($431 million), according to an independent watchdog for German charities.

It makes the country one of the most generous contributors worldwide to the huge relief effort, and is additional to the €500 million promised by the government.

The amount is the most ever collected in Germany for a catastrophe abroad, the German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI) said.

Thailand asks for technical assistance

Seebeben Thailand - Fischer in Bangkok

Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (left) is greeted by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

While Thailand has refused international financial aid, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, speaking after he greeted Fischer at the airport, said his country had asked Germany for technical assistance, such as training for forensic personnel to better prepare for disasters.

Fischer was due Sunday to visit the tourist island of Phuket to survey the damage caused by the deadly waves.

Sixty Germans have been confirmed dead and more than 700 are still missing after the disaster, mainly in Thailand's southern beach resorts. Fischer was scheduled to leave for Jakarta late Sunday, and then to visit Colombo on Monday.

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