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Mobile phone warning system to add alerts for tsunamis

2017/11/13 20:13:59

CNA file photo

Taipei, Nov. 13 (CNA) An emergency tsunami alert will be sent to mobile phone users through the country's Public Warning System (PWS) after powerful earthquakes strike offshore, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said Monday.

Tsunami warnings will be the latest service offered by the PWS, which already notifies 4G mobile phone users of earthquakes, thunderstorms and typhoons.

The new service will provide a tsunami warning under one of two scenarios.

The first is when a tsunami is triggered by a distant earthquake and forecast by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) to reach Taiwan within the following three hours, the bureau's Seismology Center said.

The text will include an estimated time of arrival and wave height according to the location of each mobile phone user, said Lin Tzu-wei (林祖慰), a section chief at the Center.

Under the other scenario, the system will send alerts when there is a strong offshore earthquake with a shallow focus that could pose a tsunami threat to Taiwan, the bureau said.

Earthquakes registering a magnitude of 7.0 or higher and a depth of less than 35 kilometers centered in waters within a latitude of 20-27 degrees north and a longitude of 118-124 degrees east will trigger alerts, according to the Seismology Center.

The system will divide Taiwan into six regions on the disaster map: northern, northeastern, eastern, southeastern, southwestern Taiwan, and the Taiwan Strait area, which covers western Taiwan's coast and outlying counties.

"The messages will be sent within 10-15 minutes in the case of an offshore earthquake and warn people to avoid coastal areas and go to higher places," Lin told CNA.

The timing for issuing a warning for distant tsunamis is trickier, because it depends on when the alert is released by the PTWC and the amount of time experts need to figure out its impact on Taiwan, Lin said.

The tsunami warning system will only issue text messages, as is the case with typhoons, thunderstorms and more mild earthquakes.

An attention-grabbing beep currently accompanies alerts only for magnitude-5 earthquakes or stronger that have an intensity of three or above in Taipei and four or above in other areas, Lin explained.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)