Tsunami: 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Rapid Environmental Assessment

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  • Topic: Maldives, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Coral reef
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NATIONAL RAPID ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT - THE MALDIVES

THE MALDIVES

Hakura, Maldives (10 January 2005). An aerial view of the damaged Hakura resort in the Maldives, along a flight path taken by the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who travelled to the region. At least 23 of the 87 tourist resorts in the Maldives were devastated in the 26 December tsunami. © Sena Vidanagama/AFP/Getty Images

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NATIONAL RAPID ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT - THE MALDIVES

5. 5.1

NATIONAL RAPID ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT – THE MALDIVES Introduction

The Indian Ocean tsunami reached the Maldives at 9:20 a.m. local time, approximately three hours after tremors were felt. Tidal waves ranging between one and five metres high were reported in all parts of the country. The force of the waves caused widespread infrastructure devastation in the atolls, 80 per cent of which are less than one metre above sea level. On a per capita basis, the Maldives is one of the countries worst affected by the tsunami. Sixty-nine islands of the country’s 199 inhabited islands were damaged (out of a total of approximately 1,190). Twenty were largely devastated, and 14 had to be evacuated. Approximately 13,000 internally displaced persons are either homeless or living with friends and relatives on other islands. In all, nearly a third of the country’s 290,000 residents have suffered from loss or damage of homes, livelihoods and local infrastructure. The tsunami had a substantial impact on the national economy, which depends largely on nature tourism, fishing and agriculture. Flooding wiped out electricity supplies on many islands, destroying communication links with most atolls. All communications were lost for ten hours or more on 182 islands, and four islands still have no direct communication. Electricity supplies in many affected islands are yet to be restored. Water supply was disrupted in approximately 15 per cent of the islands, and 25 per cent of the islands experienced major damage to essential infrastructure such as jetties and harbours that link the islands with the outside world.

Kolhufushi Beach, Maldives (10 January 2005). Young tsunami survivors play at a relief camp. On a per capita basis, the Maldives is one of the countries worst affected by the tsunami. Sixty-nine of the country’s 199 inhabited islands were damaged, and 14 had to be evacuated. Approximately 13,000 internally displaced persons are either homeless or living with friends and relatives on other islands. © Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachchi/Reuters

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5.2

Overview of the Environmental Response

Within hours after the tsunami struck, the Ministry of Environment and Construction (MEC) joined an inter-ministerial task force organized by the President of Maldives, H.E Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. At the same time, the MEC developed a questionnaire that was used to call affected islands and assess the extent of damage to water, sanitation, waste, coastal and other environmental infrastructure. A request was then made by the Ministry, on behalf of the Government of the Maldives (GOM), to the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit to assist the Ministry with the environmental emergency caused by the tsunami. On 28 December 2004, an environmental expert arrived in Maldives and undertook a rapid assessment of the tsunami’s environmental impacts as a member of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team. On 3 January 2005, based on the findings of the UNEP/ OCHA rapid environmental assessment, the MEC requested UNEP’s further assistance with the country’s environmental recovery and reconstruction work, in particular in addressing waste management issues. A total of $950,000 was included in the UN Flash appeal to cover environmental assessment and waste management activities. A UNEP waste management expert was deployed on 10 January to provide immediate technical assistance. At the same time, UNEP began providing environmental inputs to external assessments,...
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