Indian Ocean nations to test UNbacked tsunami warning system

The exercise takes place in the wake of the tsunami that killed more than 100 people in Samoa last month, “providing a sober reminder that coastal communities everywhere need to be aware and prepared for such events,” stated the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).Following the 2004 tsunami, UNESCO – through its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) – helped countries in the region set up the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS). The upcoming drill – known as “Exercise Indian Ocean Wave 09” – will test and evaluate the effectiveness of the system, identify weaknesses and areas of improvement, as well as aim to increase preparedness and improve coordination throughout the region. The exercise will replicate the magnitude 9.2 earthquake that occurred off the northwest coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, in 2004, generating a destructive tsunami affecting countries from Australia to South Africa. The simulated tsunami will spread in real time across the entire Indian Ocean, taking approximately 12 hours to travel from Indonesia to the coast of South Africa. Bulletins will be issued by the Japan Meteorogical Agency (JMA) in Tokyo and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Hawaii, United States, which have served as the interim advisory services since 2005. The recently established Regional Tsunami Watch Providers (RTWP) in Australia, India and Indonesia will also participate in the exercise and will share experimental real time bulletins between themselves only. Countries participating in next week’s drill are Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Timor-Leste. A similar drill was held in October 2008 to test the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (PTWS). Such early warning systems have also been set up in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and Northeast Atlantic Ocean and connected seas. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today highlighted the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in addressing key issues, including natural disaster reduction. “Through good climate science and information sharing, ICTs can help reduce the risk and impact of natural disasters,” he told heads of State and Chief Executive Officers attending Telecom World 2009 in Geneva. “When an earthquake hits, a coordinated ICT system can monitor developments, send out emergency messages and help people to cope.” Organized by the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Telecom World is a unique event for the ICT community which brings together the top names from across the industry and around the world. This year’s forum highlights the reach and role of telecommunications and ICT in areas such as the digital divide, climate change, and disaster relief. 6 October 2009Eighteen countries around the Indian Ocean Rim will participate in a United Nations-backed tsunami exercise on 14 October to coincide with World Disaster Reduction Day, the first time that the warning system set up following the devastating disaster that struck the region in 2004 will be tested. read more

ANZ Bank faces multimillion dollar payout after Australian court rules on credit

ANZ Bank faces multimillion dollar payout after Australian court rules on credit card late fee by The Associated Press Posted Feb 4, 2014 10:18 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email MELBOURNE, Australia – One of Australia’s largest banks faces a multimillion dollar payout to thousands of customers after a judge ruled on Wednesday that late payment fees it charged on credit cards were exorbitant.ANZ Banking Group Ltd. partially lost a class action law suit in the Australian Federal Court brought by more than 43,000 customers who claimed they had been charged excessive fees for years. In some cases the fees were 70 times the cost to the bank of administering late payments.Justice Michelle Gordon ruled that the bank had been illegally imposing penalties for late payments on credit cards.She agreed with lead plaintiff Lucio Paciocco’s argument that the fees were “extravagant, exorbitant and unconscionable,” and represented a breach of contract.But she also ruled in ANZ’s favour by dismissing claims that other types of bank fees were illegal penalties.It was not clear how much the bank would have to pay back customers who had been charged too much over six years. Lawyers for the bank and customers have until next week to agree on a proposal for repaying customers that the court can rule on.ANZ chief executive Philip Chronican said he was still reviewing the judgment, and its implications were unclear.“We felt it was a fair fee at the time,” Chronican told reporters. “We are now getting a different perspective on that as a result of what the courts have determined.”He said that in 2009 his bank reduced a number of fees it charged and abolished another 27 fees.While the credit card fees were illegal, Chronican welcomed the court’s ruling that another four fee types that had been challenged by the suit were legal. Maurice Blackburn, the law firm representing the customers, had claimed 57 million Australian dollars ($51 million) in damages from all five fee types.Maurice Blackburn said the ruling changed the banking landscape in Australia.The case was the first of eight planned class action law suits involving 185,300 customers of Australian banks, claiming AU$243 million ($216 million) in damages.The court found ANZ late fees on credit cards ranged from AU$20 to AU$35. The actual cost of administering such late payments was mostly 50 AU cents and sometimes up to AU$5.50.James Middleweek, investment manager at Bentham IMF which funded the class action, said ANZ will have to repay customers the difference plus interest.Melbourne Law School lecturer Katy Barnett said she expected ANZ’s liability would be more than AU$12 million ($11 million). She also expected other banks would also repay customers if their credit card contracts contained similar late fee clauses.She said many companies that charge customers late fees had nervously awaited Wednesday’s ruling, which would have come as a relief to many as most of ANZ’s fees proved to be legal.The Australian Banking Association, which represents the banking industry, declined to comment. ANZ CEO Australia Philip Chronican holds up his hand while he answers questions during a press conference to discuss the outcome of the Federal Court ruling in the IMF fees class action in Sydney, Australia, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. ANZ Banking Group Ltd. partially lost a class action law suit in the Australian Federal Court brought by more than 43,000 customers who claimed they had been charged excessive fees for years.(AP Photo/Rob Griffith) read more