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Still no tsunami alert system in Med, experts deplore

Japan tsunami alert lifted: meteorologists
Tokyo (AFP) April 8, 2011 - A tsunami alert issued for Japan's northeast coast after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake was lifted by the meteorological agency early Friday. "The tsunami warning and advisory was lifted as of 00:55," the agency said on its website.

Mexico hit by 6.5 earthquake
Mexico City (AFP) April 7, 2011 - A strong earthquake measuring 6.5 struck southern and central Mexico on Thursday, but there were no initial reports of damage or casualties, Mexican and US officials said. The tremor was strong enough to shake buildings and restaurants hundreds of miles away in the capital Mexico City, residents said. US experts said the quake hit the Veracruz region at 8:11 am (1311 GMT) some 57 kilometers (35 miles) from the city of Las Choapas. It was 167 kilometers (101 miles) deep. The US Geological Survey measured the quake at 6.5 on the moment magnitude scale, and said the epicenter was almost 600 kilometers (370 miles) east of the capital.

No warning of a destructive tsunami was generated, the Pacific Tsunami Warning center said in a statement. The quake was especially felt in the southern state of Chiapas, which borders on Guatemala, an AFP correspondent reported. In Mexico City -- where memories of the magnitude 8.1 quake of September 19, 1985 that killed between 10,000 and 30,000 people remain fresh -- restaurants and school buildings quickly emptied out. "It was a strong one, and we have activated all the monitoring systems but have had no reports of damage or victims," said Elias Miguel Moreno, in charge of the Civil Protection office for Mexico City. In Xalapa, the capital city of Veracruz, where earthquakes are not common, many people ran out into the streets, but there no early reports of damage or any injuries. Thursday's quake is the strongest recorded so far this year in Mexico.
by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) April 7, 2011
The Mediterranean still lacks a tsunami alert system, despite good intentions voiced after the Asian tsunami of 2004, scientists deplored Thursday in Vienna.

"We have the experience and the tools to do this early warning (system), the structures are available," Joern Lauterjung, chairman of the German-Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System (GITEWS) said on the sidelines of the European Geosciences Union's annual convention.

"Now political decisions are needed so we can start the implementation and put things into operation."

"There was interest just after the 2004 case, and then the interest very rapidly decreased," Stefano Tinti, from the University of Bologna, added.

And the funding also failed to materialise.

Although the Mediterranean is relatively small and has not experienced a tsunami in recent times, that is no reason to ignore the potential danger, experts say.

Any tsunami in the region would reach land in a very short time and "that needs a special strategy and early warning technique which has to be done in very few minutes -- five, four minutes after the earthquake," said Lauterjung.

"There are tsunami events in our area, maybe they are infrequent events, but infrequency does not mean that we are safe," said Gerassimos Papadopoulos from the Institute of Geodynamics at the National Observatory of Athens, pointing to the tourist hot-spots that have sprung up around the Mediterranean.

In 1956, the Dodecanese Islands in Greece experienced a 7.5-magnitude earthquake, he noted, showing pictures of the damage caused by the resulting tsunami, such as beached fishing boats.

The eastern Mediterranean has historically seen the most severe earthquakes, triggering tsunamis that affected the entire region, from Ancient Egypt and the Middle East to Sicily.

At present, these countries have at best nationwide monitoring systems, for seismic activity or for sea levels, according to Stefano Tinti.

But there are no warning and communication set-ups between various institutes in different countries around the Mediterranean, he noted.

earlier related report
Powerful quake hits Japan, local tsunami alert
Tokyo (AFP) April 7, 2011 - A powerful earthquake hit northeastern Japan late Thursday, seismologists said, prompting Japanese authorities to issue a localised tsunami alert.

The quake, which hit at 11:32 pm local time (1432 GMT), was initially measured at 7.4-magnitude, according to the US Geological Survey, which said it struck 66 kilometres (40 miles) east of Sendai at a shallow depth of 25.6 kilometres (15.9 miles).

USGS seismologists later downgraded its strength to 7.1, and revised its depth to 49 kms.

Workers battling to control the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant on Japan's northeast coast were ordered to evacuate, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

"After the earthquake and the tsunami warning, all the workers evacuated to a safe area. The company confirmed all the workers have cleared the plant safely," a TEPCO spokesman said.

"We have no information immediately indicating any abnormality at Fukushima Daiichi plant," a spokesman told a press conference.

Japan's weather bureau issued a tsunami alert for its Pacific coast, saying that waves of up to two metres could hit the shoreline.

"Please be warned that a tsunami as high as two metres is expected in some areas," Japan's meteorological agency said.

In a statement on its website the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said it did not expect a Pacific-wide tsunami.

Footage from broadcaster NHK showed that the power was off in parts of Sendai, a regional commercial hub that was heavily affected by the March 11 quake.

The broadcaster said gas and water leaks were being reported in some areas of the city.

Although the epicentre was at a distance of 333 kilometres (207 miles) from Tokyo, it caused buildings to shake in the Japanese capital.

"Please do not hesitate to leave for higher ground, nor try to return to the coast line. Please do not try to check the status of the coastline," broadcaster NHK said repeatedly.

Its advice not to go to the coastline was supposedly addressed to fishermen worried about their boats.

Workers have been grappling to tame runaway reactors at the Fukushima plant, which was badly damaged by the massive tsunami that hit Japan's northeast on March 11.

Cooling systems were knocked out, leaving the temperature of the nuclear cores to rise and setting off a scramble to prevent a meltdown.

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