On 26 December 2004, a devastating tsunami destroyed large parts of the coastline of the Indian Ocean. It is estimated that 250,000 people lost their lives because there was no early warning system. Shortly afterwards, the German government decided to spend 50 million Euros to develop a tsunami early warning system in Indonesia, the most severely affected country. Scientists from major German research centres presented innovative concepts for such a system to the political decision makers. Convinced of the feasibility of the proposal, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung; BMBF) decided to support the project, now named the German-Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System (GITEWS), as a joint development led by the German Research Centre for Geosciences (Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum; GFZ) in Potsdam.