Latest tsunami shows need for complete warning system: UN regional group

24 July 2006

Following last week’s tsunami that killed hundreds of people on the south-central coast of the Indonesian island of Java, the head of a United Nations regional development commission called today for more comprehensive coverage from the warning systems now being developed in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the devastating waves it created.

“After 19 months of national, regional and international efforts, the Pangandaran tsunami reminds us of the challenge to ensure that all coastal communities are safe from tsunamis, not only those affected in 2004,” Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), said.

“National capacity building must be enhanced to meet this need, especially in terms of decision-making on end-to-end tsunami warning systems,” he added.

In late 2005, UNESCAP established the Voluntary Trust Fund on Tsunami Early Warning Arrangements in the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia, which is currently open for the first round of funding and invites proposals by 31 August from eligible regional, sub-regional, and national organizations.

According to Mr. Kim, the Voluntary Trust Fund aims “to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated approach to resource mobilization for building and enhancing tsunami early warning capacities at various levels in accordance with the needs of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asian countries.”

Another tsunami-related UNESCAP effort focuses on the implementation of a community-based tsunami early warning pilot project in Sri Lanka with funding support from the Republic of Korea.

It is expected that the early warning towers and control system planned for the project would be put into operation on 26 December to commemorate the second anniversary of the tsunami in Sri Lanka.

According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 26 out of a possible 29 national tsunami warning centres, capable of receiving and distributing tsunami advisories around the clock, have been set up in Indian Ocean countries, following the December 2004 earthquake off Indonesia’s island of Sumatra, which generated waves that killed more than 230,000 people in over 12 Asian countries.

UNESCO said the warning system was able to quickly alert Indonesian national authorities of the danger of giant waves following the 17 July earthquake, but the death toll was still large because the alarm did not reach the coastal communities in time.


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