As the death toll from to the Asian tsunami rose to over 200,000 this week, delegates attending a Disaster Reduction Conference in Kobe, Japan, agreed on the need to put in place a tsunami warning system for the Indian Ocean. But one disaster expert attending the conference expressed dismay that discussions of scientific research into catastrophes took a back seat.

"There's been little hard discussion on operational issues [for disaster management] or even scientific and practical matters. Research figures little or none," said Debarati Guha-Sapir, director of the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Brussels.

Sapir told The Scientist she hopes that maintaining the health of the survivors of future calamities will not be forgotten in the rush to invest in disaster mitigation and warning systems.

"The level of discussion remained rather general," she said of the Kobe meeting. "I'm disappointed that [disease] surveillance remains a low...

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