updated 1/14/2005 8:39:11 AM ET 2005-01-14T13:39:11

Japan and the United States will provide tsunami warnings to countries in the Indian Ocean as a provisional measure until the region establishes its own alert system, a Japanese official said Friday.

The plan will be discussed at a U.N.-sponsored international conference on disaster reduction next week that will focus heavily on the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 157,000 people in 11 countries.

Experts say those casualties could have been substantially reduced if there had been forewarning.

“It will take time to obtain agreement among the tsunami-hit countries before a tsunami early warning system can be established,” said Meteorological Agency official Takayuki Kawazu.

In the meantime, officials at the conference will discuss how Japan and the United States, which have the world’s most advanced warning systems, can distribute information to countries in the Indian Ocean, Kawazu said.

More than 300 meteorological experts, including from countries worst-hit by the tsunami like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives, will attend the U.N. World Conference on Disaster Reduction in the western port city of Kobe starting Tuesday.

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