Danny Ayers writes about a global internet tsunami warning system He missed the point; the SE-Asian Tsunami was detected in minutes by research centers in Hawaii. But there was no way to get the message out.
In terms of practicality, no warning system would have helped the Indonesians in Sumatra; the tsunami hit too fast. But if it had been possible to get the message out to Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka, then the deaths there could possibly have been prevented.
It took two hours for the waves to get to India and Sri Lanka. It took several more to hit East Africa, where over 130 people died. The news wires were already buzzing with the tsunami news before it hit Phuket in Thailand (about 45 minutes after Sumatra).
All of this shows that it’s not a detection system that was needed – it’s a communication system. There needs to be a way of getting the message out easily, with government communication channels in place. There also needs to be a way for the governments in question to get the word out to the remote communities that were hardest hit.