Japan uses satellites to track disasters

(Associated Press via NewsEdge) Japan launched a satellite-based alert system that will instantly send warnings of tsunamis and updates on volcanic activity to help speed evacuations, an emergency official said.

Japan consistently experiences about 10% of the world's magnitude 6 or greater earthquakes, which if underwater can trigger tsunamis, according to Meteorological Agency data.
The country also has 108 active volcanoes, about 10% of the world's total.

Under the system, called 'J-ALERT,' the nation's Fire and Disaster Management Agency will immediately transmit warnings on tsunamis if an earthquake occurs. It will also issue alerts following signs of volcanic activity based on information from the Meteorological Agency to local authorities, said Fire and Disaster Management agency spokesman Takeshi Itoh. Information on strong earthquakes after they occur will also be sent, Itoh said.

The warnings will activate communication devices in the regions connected to the system, setting off sirens and voice advisories via radio, Itoh said.

In the initial stage, J-ALERT will be limited to 10 prefecture (state) governments and four cities.

Harley Benz, chief scientist at the US Geological Survey's Earthquake Center in Golden, Colorado, said the USGS does not have a specific alert system following earthquakes in the US, though the center does send out some 100,000 email and pager alerts for every earthquake around the world.

© 2007 The Associated Press

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