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Ten years after Asian tsunami, the region is better prepared to cope with disasters

Staff writer |
Ten years after the world's worst natural disaster in living memory roared across the shorelines of South and Southeast Asia, countries in the region are better prepared to deal with tragedies like the Indian Ocean Tsunami, but there is still room for improvement, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

In December 2004 the tsunami claimed the lives of more than two-hundred thousand people and left the livelihoods of some 1.4 million survivors in tatters, when it damaged or destroyed fields, fish ponds, boats, fishing gear and livestock upon which entire food production systems depended.

In many cases, entire fishing communities were obliterated - as was coastal agriculture - the tsunami's powerful waves smashed fishing boats and even tossed large trawlers far inland, set to rest where animals once grazed and rice and vegetables had grown.

"A decade later, while events marking the remembrance of the tsunami recall the human tragedy, FAO examines the lessons learned in mitigating damage to agricultural livelihoods, food security and nutrition wrought by such natural and climatic events," said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific.

"What we and our member countries have learned and now see in place is impressive, but there is still more that can and should be done to prevent and mitigate disasters," he added.

Prior to the tsunami, actions by countries were reactive rather than proactive, with a focus on life-saving, then recovery. Since then, there has been a paradigm shift toward the equal importance of anticipative, multi-hazard risk reduction with prevention and mitigation of natural disasters given equal importance.

Early disaster warning systems and clearly marked tsunami evacuation routes are evident in some countries such as Thailand which, following the tsunami, established the Department of National Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.

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