In wake of Pacific tsunami, UN official urges countries to build better to reduce future risks

15 October 2009
UNDP Assistant Administrator Jordan Ryan

A United Nations official just returned from visiting tsunami-battered islands in the Pacific Ocean today urged officials in the region to make sure they reduce their exposure to future disasters when they rebuild vital infrastructure.

Jordan Ryan, Assistant Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), told a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York that disaster preparedness also meant rebuilding in ways that reduce the potential impact of future catastrophes.

At least 150 people were killed and more than 3,000 others left homeless in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga by the 30 September tsunami, which followed an undersea earthquake. Widespread damage was caused to hospitals, schools, roads, sea walls and power and water supplies.

Mr. Ryan, who is also UNDP’s Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, noted that during his recent visit to the region he saw a newly built school that was unaffected by the tsunami while total devastation could be seen around it.

He said the school may have been constructed in a way that it could better withstand the kind of damage caused by a tsunami, and he said the reconstruction of infrastructure should reflect this.

Mr. Ryan also stressed that location is highly significant in rebuilding after any major disaster. If some structures in Samoa had been built even 50 or 100 metres uphill from their locations, dozens of people might not have died.

He noted that in Samoa alone, preliminary assessments indicated that damage exceeded $150 million, and that substantial funding will be necessary to revitalize key economic sectors, such as tourism, agriculture and fisheries.

 

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