Tsunami: Walking the Last Mile Together on Early Warning

On 26 December 2004, the world experienced the Indian Ocean Tsunami, one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded. At an event held at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand last week, panelists took stock of the progress made in building greater resilience to disasters in Asia-Pacific, and also highlighted outstanding gaps and priorities for the way forward.

“Ten years after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, much has been done to fill gaps in risk reduction, disaster preparedness and early warning systems,” stated Ms. Shamika N. Sirimanne, Director, Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Ms. Sirimanne noted that a key lesson from the 2004 Tsunami was the importance of early warning, and highlighted the establishment of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System in 2011 as an important milestone to which ESCAP had contributed through its Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness.

Asia-Pacific remains highly disaster prone, despite progress being made in building resilience. Critical gaps remain in early warning and additional investments are required particularly at the local level. “Reaching the most vulnerable people and remote communities at the ‘last mile’ with timely warnings is critical,” added Ms. Sirimanne. “An efficient end-to-end system is yet to be realized.”

Ms. Kanchana Patarachoke, Deputy Director-General, Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand stated that Thailand had come a long way over the past ten years and that the experience of the 2004 Tsunami had taught countries to be prepared and to invest more in disaster prevention.

Mr. David Oberhuber, Country Director, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH echoed the need for additional investments in disaster preparedness, and highlighted Thailand as a good example of a country that had greatly strengthened its resilience at the local level since 2004.

The panel discussion opened with the screening of the video, 'Tsunami: Walking the Last Mile'. The Tsunami video and b-roll package will also be made available to broadcasters ahead of the December 26th commemoration.

About the ESCAP Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness

ESCAP plays a significant role in galvanizing regional efforts, promoting new technologies and supporting early warning projects through its Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness.

The Trust Fund was established in 2005 through a founding contribution of US$ 10 million from the Government of Thailand. Applying a multi-hazard approach, it supports the development of an integrated regional early warning system. Since 2005, eight donors have joined the Trust Fund, providing contributions totaling US$ 13.8 million.
The Trust Fund has made important contributions to the establishment of effective regional mechanisms such as the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System and the Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES), as well as to the strengthening of warning systems at the national and local levels. Since 2010, it has also supported early warning for multiple coastal hazards, including typhoons and storm surges.