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Germany Plans Disaster Early Warning Conference

Germany Plans Disaster Early Warning Conference
BERLIN - Germany hopes to host an international conference this year designed to enhance early warning systems and limit the damage from natural disasters following Asia's devastating tsunami.

About 150,000 people were killed across the Indian Ocean when a massive earthquake on Dec. 26 triggered the tsunami. Those who lost lives and livelihoods received no warning even though the huge waves took from one to six hours to strike.

Deputy Foreign Minister Klaus Scharioth told reporters on Tuesday Germany suggested holding a conference on early warning systems to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week.

"The theme of tsunamis would of course play a large role. I am fairly certain that the secretary-general will agree to our proposal," Scharioth said.

Germany has already hosted two such disaster early warning conferences in 1998 and 2003.

Countries around the Pacific Ocean already have an early warning system to protect against tsunamis, which are far more frequent there.

A donor conference in Jakarta on Thursday is to look at an Asian early warning system, but it is unclear what the huge array of world leaders to attend can achieve in one day.

A long-planned World Conference on Disaster Reduction will also take place in Kobe, Japan on Jan. 18-22.

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