UN marks 10th anniversary of Indian Ocean tsunami

Updated: 2014-12-27 07:26


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UN marks 10th anniversary of Indian Ocean tsunami
A couple comfort each other as they attend a Swedish memorial service for victims of the 2004 tsunami at a beach in Khao Lak December 26, 2014. Survivors of Asia's 2004 tsunami and relatives of its 226,000 victims cried and prayed as they gathered along Indian Ocean shorelines on Friday for memorials to mark the 10th anniversary of a disaster that still leaves an indelible mark on the region. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS - Commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami, the UN Children's Fund ( UNICEF) commended the people of Aceh, Indonesia's western-most province, for their resilience and their achievements in rising from devastation, a UN spokesman told reporters here Friday.

"For UNICEF, the emergency response to the tsunami, particularly in Aceh, where 170,000 people were killed and 800 kilometers of coastline devastated, remains one of the largest humanitarian operations in the organization's history," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a daily news briefing here.

"The unprecedented support and financial contributions by individual and corporate donors helped UN agencies such as UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) roll out one of the most complex and wide-reaching emergency operations ever mounted," he said.

Also on Friday, UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Margareta Wahlstrom, attended commemorative events in Phuket, Thailand.

At an event looking at how far the world has come in the 10 years, Amos noted that the tsunami illustrated that help is needed before, during and after a disaster hits.

Noting that the impact of long-term help in Thailand is evident today, Amos added that the government and partners have worked to rebuild communities and help them better prepare for future shocks.

Ten years since a massive tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean, which killed more than 200,000 people and devastated coastline communities from Indonesia to Somalia, the world today is much better prepared to mitigate such disasters, senior United Nations officials have declared.

"Ten years after the Indian Ocean tsunami, the world has taken significant measures to make the world a safer place against disasters," Wahlstrom said in a press release issued Friday to mark the anniversary.

"We now have more efficient early warning systems and better evacuation procedures in place," she added. "There is also greater understanding and awareness globally of the broad damage that disasters can inflict on our societies."

The world's worst recorded natural disaster hit the Asia Pacific region on Dec. 26, 2004, claiming the lives of 227,000 people in 14 countries and leaving the livelihoods of some 1.4 million survivors in tatters.

While the immediate economic loss caused by the event was estimated at 9.9 billion US dollars, the tsunami has also inflicted long-term environmental and development harm as salt water contaminated the land, wiping out agriculture and damaging forests and ecosystems.

At the same time, the widespread devastation and sheer immensity of the disaster spurred the international community into immediate action. Just three weeks after the tsunami, countries united in Hyogo, Japan, to craft the Hyogo Framework for Action -- the world's first comprehensive agreement on disaster reduction.

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