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Israeli firm offers free tsunami alert system

Jerusalem, January 4
An Israeli company said it planned to distribute free to Asian countries hit by last week's tsunami a device it says could save lives by warning holiday-makers directly that a tidal wave is coming.

The system, developed by Israeli inventor Meir Gitelis, uses land and water sensors, smaller than a shoebox and each costing $170, to measure seismic activity and wave motion.

Like other systems already in operation, the sensors can send alerts in seconds by satellite to governments anywhere in the world.

Unlike others, this system can also relay warnings directly to private subscribers over mobile phones, pagers or dedicated receivers, spreading the message more widely.

Seaside hotels could install a satellite receiver to pick up warnings broadcast over the system seconds after an earthquake that could cause giant waves. Local mobile phones or pager networks could do the same and send SMS messages to their subscribers.

"The sensors determine the tremor's intensity as well as the height and speed of the waves above it," said Mr Gitelis, of Avtipus Patents and Inventions Ltd., which specialises in sensors and communications devices.

"The system can then analyse all data and predict if and when a tsunami will come, where it will hit and how big its impact will be," he said.

"We're not doing this to make money," he said, adding, "we want to help people. We plan to give our product to poor countries for free and we will not charge the countries that were affected by the disaster in Asia."

Tsunami warning stations exist around the Pacific Ocean. Mr Gitelis said his system could be particularly effective in holiday resorts like those devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami, which took an estimated 75 minutes to reach Thailand and much longer to hit Sri Lanka and parts of India. Reuters
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