Still feeling the ripples of 2004 tsunami

Sri Lanka and other countries were devastated by the tsunami, 10 years ago today. Photo: Kieran Doherty / Reuters
Sri Lanka and other countries were devastated by the tsunami, 10 years ago today. Photo: Kieran Doherty / Reuters

Ten years ago today, the fearsome power of nature was demonstrated by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Indian Ocean that claimed more than 230,000 lives. The figurative ripples of that awful event are still being felt there. And here too because many of those who lost so much form part of the UAE’s expatriate workforce. Many of those badly affected are here and slowly but surely rebuilding their lives.

Mohammed Maheer, a Sri Lankan office assistant in Abu Dhabi, is just one example, as The National reports today. His uncle was one of the 35,000 who were killed by the tsunami in Sri Lanka and his home was obliterated. By working here, he is able to pay to build a new one. He says that soon after the tsunami, friends in Abu Dhabi offered him money when they learnt of the effect on his family. But he declined, wanting to rebuild through his own hard work.

This can-do spirit is admirable and illustrates how even those with relatively modest wages are using the opportunity of working in the UAE to change their lives for the better. This is regardless of whether they want to mitigate the effects of a natural disaster or the straitjacket of poverty caused by the lack of opportunity in their countries of origin.

But Mr Maheer and other tsunami-affected people’s steady setting to rights is just one positive development to note on this 10th anniversary. Another is that several codes and operating procedures are now in place to lessen the effect when the next example of force majeure occurs. In many of the affected countries, the authorities have insisted that new homes be built on higher ground and the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System was a direct result of the tsunami. It is modelled on the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre that operates out of Hawaii. Soon after the 2004 tsunami, some said that the death toll would have been much lower had a warning system been in place. Now it is, and its efficacy was demonstrated in April 2012 when a tsunami warning was issued in the Andaman Islands within eight minutes of the Banda Aceh earthquake.

Though it can hardly make up for their loss, those who are still recovering from the events of December 26, 2004, must surely feel better knowing that the world has learnt from the tragedy that engulfed them.

Published: December 25, 2014 04:00 AM


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