Web aids tsunami response

The Web is proving its power as a global resource once again in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami, serving up news from around the world as well as practical information from governments of countries hit by the tsunami and those providing aid.

The Web has also enabled U.S. embassies to efficiently handle queries from friends and relatives of U.S. citizens who are missing in the disaster zone.

The U.S. Pacific Command has set up a tsunami Web page (http://www.pacom.mil/special/0412asia/) that includes information on relief operations and links to Web sites for U.S. embassies in the Indian Ocean region.

The site for the U.S. embassy in Thailand (http://bangkok.usembassy.gov/) provides phone numbers to help people report or track down missing U.S. citizens, with a request that less urgent inquiries be sent via e-mail to acsbkk@state.gov.

The Royal Thai Government's Web site (http://www.thaigov.go.th/index-eng.htm) has a searchable list of names of tsunami victims, but that link was not working earlier today.

The U.S. embassy in Sri Lanka has a Web page (http://usembassy.state.gov/srilanka/) with numbers to call for information about missing U.S. or Sri Lanka citizens. The State Department has also set up a toll-free hot line at (888) 407-4747 for help in locating missing U.S. citizens.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has set up a special tsunami Web page (http://www.usaid.gov/locations/asia_near_east/tsunami/) that provides a country-by-country summary of U.S. humanitarian aid and links to Web sites of relief organizations working in the region.

USAID's site warns that relief workers in Sri Lanka also have to deal with land mines planted during the country's decades-long civil war. The tsunami swept away or destroyed warning signs in mined areas, and many mines have floated out of known minefields, according to the site.

The World Health Organization's tsunami Web page (http://www.who.int/hac/crises/international/asia_tsunami/en/) has information on diseases that may arise in the wake of the disaster and steps that should be taken to mitigate them. The site also includes links to news reports about the tsunami and international relief efforts.

The Web site for the United Nations Children's Fund (http://www.unicef.org/) has on-the-scene reports from UNICEF staffers in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

The Web site for Sri Lanka's Government Information Department (http://www.news.lk/) provides a grim insight into the island nation's casualties and posts updates on relief efforts.

The National Disaster Management home page for the Government of India's Ministry of Home Affairs (http://www.ndmindia.nic.in/) has detailed situation reports posted daily since the tsunami struck Dec. 26. The reports indicate that disaster relief efforts in some areas, including the Andaman and Nicobar islands, have been hampered because of damaged or destroyed telecommunications systems.

United Nations officials and the foreign minister of Australia have called for the establishment of a tsunami warning system similar to the one operated by the United States in the Pacific Ocean.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration operates the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii (http://www.prh.noaa.gov/ptwc/), which detected the earthquake that caused the Indian Ocean tsunami. The center bases its tsunami predictions in part on data gathered by the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) project (http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/Dart/dart.shtml). Recorders on the ocean floor send information to buoys that transmit the data via satellite to ground stations for immediate dissemination to tsunami warning centers and the National Data Buoy Center (http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/Maps/Northeast.shtml).

Web sites for print and broadcast media in the United States and abroad have extensive coverage of the tsunami and its aftermath, including the Australian (http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/). The Times of India (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/) has devoted the entire home page of its Web site to tsunami coverage.

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