CHINA’S international tsunami warning center has opened, serving countries bordering on the South China Sea, oceanic officials announced Thursday.
The center, built and managed by China, monitors major earthquake subduction zones — where the Earth’s plates converge — in the South China, Sulu and Sulawesi seas and provides 24-hour uninterrupted warning services, said Wang Hua, a State Oceanic Administration (SOA) official.
The South China Sea region is prone to tsunamis and littoral countries have, until now, relied on services provided by American and Japanese warning centers.
The warning center was proposed in 2009. In 2013, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC/UNESCO) approved an SOA plan.
Wang said the center was the result of practical maritime cooperation between countries around the South China Sea.
Yuan Ye, director of the National Tsunami Warning Center, said China is now capable of warning the public of a tsunami eight to 10 minutes after an earthquake.
In 1897, a tsunami caused by an earthquake in the northern Sulu Sea killed more than 100 people. An earthquake measuring 8.0 magnitudes in the Sulawesi Sea in 1976 resulted in nearly 8,000 deaths in the Philippines.
More than 80 percent of tsunamis occur in the Pacific.
Numerical simulation shows that if an 8.5-magnitude earthquake hit the Manila Trench in the north, the tsunami it triggers would have severe effects in the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and South China’s coastal areas, said Yu Fujiang, director of the National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center.
China will hold trainings and provide tsunami warnings for countries surrounding the South China Sea, Wang said.