Asia Needs Tsunami Warning System, Disaster Education, Experts Say
SEOUL, South Korea — An Asia-wide early warning system for tsunamis must be accompanied by educational campaigns on how to respond to all natural disasters in the region, environment officials said Monday at a U.N.-sponsored conference.
There "must be an early warning system, without any doubt, for the tsunami," Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, told a meeting of environment ministers and experts in the South Korean capital, Seoul. "But we also have to do it for all kinds of natural hazards."
The Asia Pacific region is the most disaster-prone region in the world, having incurred more than US$380 billion (euro294 billion) in economic losses during the past 15 years from natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, said Kim Hak-su, executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission.
"These losses have much more severe socio-economic impacts on developing and least-developed countries," Kim said.
Toepfer stressed that any warning system must integrate indigenous knowledge to provide "an information chain on how to make people aware and trained to react very, very clearly."
"Many died because they went to watch the receding sea moments before the tsunami struck," said Krasae Chanawongse, special adviser to Thailand's prime minister, adding that casualties could have been reduced if people had been better informed and recognized that it was a sign of an approaching tsunami.
Thailand was among the dozen countries struck by the Dec. 26 tsunami spawned by the world's biggest earthquake in 40 years, killing more than 174,000 people and leaving more than 106,000 others missing.
There is no early warning system in the Indian Ocean, where the tsunami occurred, which experts say could have saved many lives.
Salvano Briceno, director of the secretariat of the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, said US$11 million (euro8.5 million) had already been allocated for an early warning system but that substantially more was needed for it to be operated effectively.
During the two-day conference, ministers from 52 countries are also expected to adopt a resolution on how to achieve environmentally sustainable economic growth.
"The international community has outlined the tasks of eliminating poverty and achieving environmentally sustainable growth," South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said at the conference's opening. "Now is the time for us to come up with concrete measures and implement them."
Source: Associated Press