PARIS (AFP) - Eighteen states around the Indian Ocean rim will next week stage the first region-wide test of a tsunami warning system aimed at saving thousands of lives, UNESCO said. Dubbed Exercise Indian Ocean Wave 09, the joint exercise on October 14 will replicate the massive earthquake that struck off the Indonesian coast in 2004, triggering a tsunami that killed some 217,000 people in 11 countries. Held on World Disaster Reduction Day, it will be the first ocean-wide test of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, known as IOTWS, set up by UNESCO the following year. The simulated tsunami will spread in real time across the entire Indian Ocean, taking around 12 hours to travel from Indonesia to the South African coast, the UN agency said in a statement. Bulletins on seismic and sea level data will be sent from the Japan Meteorogical Agency in Tokyo and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, to national tsunami warning centres across the Indian Ocean. Newly-established watch centres in Australia, India and Indonesia-which are due in the near future to take over from Hawaii and Tokyo as monitors for the region-will also take part, share data among themselves. UNESCO said the exercise would allow states to test communication channels with regional alert centres, and identify weaknesses in warning and emergency procedures. Several countries will also test local responses by evacuating selected coastal communities. The countries taking part are Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Timor Leste. Few of the 29 Indian Ocean nations affected by the December 2004 tsunami had an adequate warning system in place. Experts said a system similar to the one in operation for decades in the nearby Pacific could have saved thousands of people. The October 14 exercise comes a fortnight after a tsunami struck the Pacific island of Samoa, providing a sober reminder that coastal communities everywhere need to be aware and prepared for such events, UNESCO said. Several huge earthquakes off Vanuatu and a wide-ranging tsunami alert sent panicked Pacific islanders fleeing for the hills Thursday, fearing a repeat of deadly waves that smashed villages and killed 184 last week.