JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesian officials said Thursday that all 22 tsunami warning buoys installed near vulnerable islands failed to work when a powerful earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra.
Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the buoys were inoperable because of vandalism or a lack of funds for operation and maintenance.
“That made it difficult to determine whether or not the quake triggered a tsunami,” Sutopo said.
A magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit parts of Sumatra and small islands in western Indonesia on Wednesday evening, sending thousands of islanders rushing to high ground but causing no major damage or deaths.
READ MORE: Tsunami warning lifted after powerful earthquake strikes off Indonesia
Indonesia’s Meteorology and Geophysics Agency issued a tsunami warning, but lifted it more than two hours later after discovering that a small tsunami had reached the coasts of Cocos island and Indonesia’s Padang city in West Sumatra.
German and Indonesian scientists began installing warning buoys off Sumatra island a year after a magnitude-9.1 quake in 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.
The system involves sensors on the ocean floor and giant buoys on the surface of the sea that transmit information about earthquake activity via satellite to observation stations on the coast within 10 minutes of tsunami-strength earthquakes.
Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines circling the Pacific Basin.