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Lives In Indonesia Africa At Risk Despite Tsunami Alert System

Jakarta, Indonesia - still at risk.
by Emsie Ferreira
Bonn (AFP) Mar 29, 2006
Lives in Africa, Indonesia and on islands like the Maldives will remain at risk in the event of a tsumani for years to come despite an alert system taking effect in July, the head of the UN agency for disaster reduction said here Tuesday.

"Indonesia is a problem. It is a huge area, with a huge population and a huge risk," Salvano Briceno, the head of the UN's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, said.

"What is missing and what will take years to implement are ways to reach poor communities that need to be prepared" for another tsunami, Briceno told AFP on the sidelines of the Third International Conference on Early Warning taking place in Bonn.

Malaysia, the Maldives and Myanmar were other nations that lagged behind in preparing people for future sea surges, along with conflict-ridden countries like Somalia in east Africa, he said.

India and Thailand, on the other hand, were well advanced in setting up communication channels to warn people to head for safe ground in the event of sea surges.

The United Nations on Monday announced that the region around the Indian Ocean, where an earthquake-triggered tsunami killed 217,000 people in December 2004, will have monitoring systems in place by July that can foretell a tsunami to the minute.

The system will also cover African nations on the Indian Ocean, whose shorelines were also battered by giant waves 15 months ago though the loss of lives and property was far smaller than in Asia.

"Africa has the potential to suffer even more. Though Kenya can react well we have a big problem in Somalia because the country does not even have a government. We are trying to work with non-governmental organisations there," Briceno said.

UN officials here have sounded frustration that governments have embraced ocean-monitoring techonology but failed to pass laws and put in place communication sytems to ensure people on the coastline are alerted.

Former US president Bill Clinton, the US special envoy for tsunami recovery, met with members of Asian governments at the conference on Monday and told them to speed up the process, said Patricio Bernal, assistant director-general of the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Officials said the trauma of the 2004 tsunami had however seen survivors in devastated communities heed the advice of international organisations to rebuild in such a way that they will be safer next time.

"People are so traumatised that they are listening and changing their lives. In (the Indonesian province) Aceh, people have picked and moved to where they did not want to live but will be safer," Henri Josserand from the UN Food and Agriculture Agency said.

And delegates to the conference said countries as far away as the Caribbean had begun preparing for a tsunami following the Asian tragedy.

"Jamaican literature speaks of a tsunami in 1692. But the population at large now understands the threat. It has become part of our disaster prevention programme and they know to get to high ground," Barbara Carby, the director general of Jamaica's disaster preparedness office, said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

Related Links
UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

UN Promises Asia Tsunami Warning System By July
Bonn (AFP) Mar 28, 2006
Countries affected by the south Asian tsunami should have a warning system against sea surges in place by July, the UN's top humanitarian official said Monday, as officials took nations to task for failing to prepare civilians for a potential future disaster.

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