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Tuesday 29 March 2005

UN on alert after new Indian Ocean quake, calls for speeding up early warning

United Nations offices throughout the area hit by last December's tsunami are on alert after a new earthquake struck the west coast of Indonesia today, and though no tsunamis have been reported this time, the shocks are a wake-up call for the world to speed up an early warning system for the region, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator said.

"What we hope is now that the international community will really speed up work on the early warning system for the tsunami," Under-Secretary-General Jan Egeland told a news briefing in New York, noting that there were unconfirmed reports of deaths on one island near the epicentre and accounts of limited damage in the region, which suffered most from the earlier disaster.

"A little bit stronger earthquake this time [and] we could have another major tsunami in the middle of the night," he added, referring to the giant waves of 26 December that killed more than 200,000 people and left up to 5 million in need of basic services in a dozen Indian Ocean countries. "We need that early warning system up and going."

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