SAARC-UNISDR Special Correspondent (Asia) – Disasters can occur anywhere, anytime, at any location, and to any society. Asian Tsunami-2004 is considered to be the most devastating disaster of the last millennium’s recorded history.
The Asian Tsunami of 2004 devastated almost 9 major oceanic sectors of Asia, leaving over 5 million people homeless, hundreds of thousands displaced, and a toll rate exceeding 2,37,000.
The devastative consequences of such ostentatious cataclysms pose detrimental damages to the global communities, their infrastructures and in their overall socio-economic set-ups.
The Tsunami was triggered up by an earthquake of 9.1 magnitude having one of the history’s biggest tremors, that caused tore up of the sea-bed along the Indian Ocean and made it bed-off through the coasts of more than a dozen countries around the Indian ocean rim. Being closest to the quake’s epicenter, Indonesia’s Aceh, became the first-hit and the hardest-hit area. On the beginning, due to the intense quake, that crashed the buildings and collapsed the towns, the people became panic and frighteningly rushing through the streets and roads. 20 minutes later, almost a 7 to 10 meters high, giant wall of seawater carrying along trees, towers, coastal installations, electric poles, buses and trains, surged to the landside with an un-counterable strength to eradicate communities, leaving millions as homeless, displaced and over 2,37,000 casualties across the oceanic rim.
The horrific, massive waves roaring across the oceanic rim, hitting Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Thailand, and reached the East African zones of Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania.
Still, there remain numerous areas, where the Tsunami victim populations have not recovered their lives fully. And still there remain certain communities populated in the coastal areas, that are prone to high risks of natural calamities.
Eradicating the communities, devastating the towns and cities, ruining the lands the Tsunami 2004 left billions of the human eyes teared, hearts sorrowed and the nations mourned — marking one of the toughest moral tests for the rest of humanity — the hardest trial of human solidarity for the whole world.
In order to mark the decade anniversary’s solemn inscriptive commemorations, people from different walks of life along with thousands of the survivors, government officials, academicians, diplomats, political leaders and the victims’ families gathered on the shorelines in the coastal zones of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Sumatra and Thailand.
Moments of silence were observed at several places to mark the moment that set fixed the entire world in grief.
Besides the several memorials paid by victims, survivors and the general public, the academic commencements of Tsunami commemoration also became events of note. The enormous observance also divulged a Post-doc Multiversity KAKHTAH, to be established in Asia for higher research studies on disaster risk reduction.
Special featured reports and dedicatory contents have been published by the AP, BBC, CBC, ContentCo, Reuters and many other regional and local news dissemination services.
“Crying onlookers took part in beachside memorials and religious services across Asia to mark the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami that slayed more than a quarter million people in one of the modern history’s worst natural disasters,” says AP.
Indonesia’s Aceh province — the hardest-hit area — marked the Tsunami’s first decade anniversary amidst abundant disquiet and trepidations. Memorial services were regulated and led by the Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who with other officials, laid flowers on the Siron Mass Grave, where thousands of Tsunami victims were buried.
Mr. Kalla, the Vice President of Indonesia, paid thanks to the nations, organizations, donors and the individuals who helped the Aceh people in their ‘hour of need’ – a moment that was unprecedented in their previous history of tragedies. Awards were given to the ambassadors of the nations, that were distributed during the hard times.
In Sri Lanka, the Tsunami’s first decade anniversary was marked in different coastal areas, which were among the hard-hit zones of Tsunami. An ‘Ocean Queen’ Express train, which became derailed by the powerful devastative Tsunami waves on 26 Dec. 2004, was again beset on track lines as a ‘symbol of tragedy’. The train was commemoratively cenotaphed and symbolized to memorialize the moment, when this train was hit by the toppling waves. Over 1750 people died in a single blow, making this the world history’s biggest rail disaster.
A ten days’ summit has been organized by academicians of SAARC region universities to mark the 10th anniversary of Tsunami. Led by Justice (R) S.S. Paru, the summit ascribes resolution of institutional significance concerning the disaster risk reduction. Tsunami’s ‘Un-sung Heroes’ awards have been bestowed on the individuals M.S.S. Salawal Salah of Galle, Mr. Faisar N.M. Ms. from Matara, Ms. Razana, Nashika Unais and Dr. Bareera N. B. from Pakistan, who paid their consummate and proficient services in different projects during the rehabilitation phase of the catastrophe aftermaths.
In Thailand, where foreigners from 38 countries died, beside the local victims, memorial events were held at Khao Lak. People placed flowers on a memorial wall, where the name of the victims were inscribed.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha led a memorial event at Khao Lak. He joined the relatives of the victims and laid a wreath of remembrance at a beached police boat site, that has become the symbolized sign of Tsunami for the Thai nation. The police boat 813 had beed washed away to a shore nearly 2 kms away near Phuket.
“This heavy loss serves as a reminder and a lesson for everyone,” said the prime minister to the participants.
According to the AP, survivors of the tsunami along with bereaved relatives from Germany, Austria and Switzerland held a memorial service on a beach in Khao Lak, Thailand. They walked into the waves and lay flowers, while diplomats placed wreaths on the sand.
The victims’ close relatives, the survivors and other people from the affected communities expressed their feelings on the occasion.
“I cannot forget the smell of the air and the water at that time… even after 10 years,” said Mr. Teuku, a 51 years old resident of Indonesia.
“I cannot forget how I lost my wife, my kids, my house,” he said sobbing, recounting that he refused to believe for years that they had died but finally gave up looking for them, reported the AP correspondents.
As Dec. 26, 2014, categorically marked the 2004 Asian Tsunami’s 1st decade’s termination-finale, along with an adjacent compliance-amenability to the conclusive year for the UN’s ‘Step-up Initiative’, the observance got an extraordinary extended consideration, in academic realms too.
According to an institutional note from SAARC, a fortnight confluence summit under the aegis of UNISDR, titled ‘Decade Summit of Asian Tsunami’ has been organized in Sri Lanka, to mark the Tsunami’s first decade anniversary.
The Decade Summit of Asian Tsunami is intended to switch on and amplify the critical issues of the UN’s DRR-HFA, says the summit’s official release on the occasion.
Following the record tweeting — over 4.3 million tweets — that were propelled up and sent to UTC on IDDR-2014, the Tsunami Decade Summit, also put high emphasis on age-inclusive DRR frame-working.
The United Nations’ top official to deal with the natural disasters’ subject-matter, Margareta Wahlstrom says from Geneva, “A decade since a tsunami killed 230,000 people in Southeast Asia, the world must do more to prepare for extreme weather,” reports Fox News.
“Something odd is going on with wild weather noticeably increasing recently, bringing more risks,” further adds the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for disaster risk reduction, Margareta Wahlstrom, according to the source.
A world conference is being organized in Japan by 3/2015, to help set the next stage concerning the disaster preparedness, that must go beyond the early warning system since Tsunami 2004.
According to the source, Wahlstrom told The Associated Press that the world is better prepared for calamities of the scale of the massive earthquake on Dec. 26, 2004 that triggered a 100-foot-high tsunami which spread death across a dozen countries. However, she says much more needs to be done, reports Fox News.
Besides the utmost wreckage-desolations, that quite austerely devastated and shattered almost nine main oceanic sectors of Asia, including the hard-hit coastal zones of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and Sumatra, and its unprecedented scale of destruction, Tsunami-2004 brought forth a way to measure the ‘real impact factor’ in terms of the actual ‘on-ground renderings’ conceded thereupon.
An opinion poll was customizedly commissioned in hard-hit areas, in order to have the refugees, the survivors and victims their own say for ‘who did what for them’, which brought some meaningful content in the devastating aftermath of the most-crucial and most-watched catastrophe of the last two millennia’s recorded history of natural cataclysms.
The outcome of ‘Tsunami Opinion Polls’, coupled with inter-institutional and academic consensus, evoked the unanimity in lieu of a historic resolution for instituting a multiversity and a scholarship named ‘KAKHTAH’ in the SAARC region, for DRR studies at post-doctoral level. The multiversity and the scholarship is named after those who became responsible for bringing forth the real ‘difference’ during the hard test of human solidarity, through their meritorious efforts. The state-of-the-art revolutionary post-doc multiversity has been named after the four stalwarts; Kofi Annan (Former Sec. Gen. UN), Hellen Keller Intl. (A US based NGO), Tzu-chi (An international NGO from Taiwan), and Aurangzeb Hafi (A multi-disciplinary arch-researcher from Pakistan), for their meritorious efforts in the Asian Tsunami 2004 relief works.
The modern, first-of-its-kind-in-history KAKHTAH multiversity scholarship is proclaimed to be bestowed with a distinguished congregation of over 1900 global academic icons. The medal escorted with a 2.7 Million GBP scholarship, would be bequeathed on a biennial basis, for estimable post-doctoral research works of deservingly significant virtues, especially in the areas of disaster management, catastrophic policy lay-outs, cataclysmic forecasting and calamity-prevention methodologies.
The seven members’ conferring jury for the KAKHTAH medal includes national and regional academic celebrities, and is chaired by Justice(R) S.S. Paru, L.L.D., D.Litt., from Indonesia. Sri Lanka’s ombudsman Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria, who had been Sri Lankan High Commissioner in New Zealand and Australia, and has served federal and state ministries in various capacities for over fifteen years, has been designated for serving as the senior assessor of jury. Dr. Faisar N.M., Dr. E.M. Navaratne and Dr. Alex Jayawardene are also adherent-members. The jury is mandated to take all noteworthy research works of relevance into deliberations on a biennium basis, in order to subjugate the scholarship worthiness of the research.
A selection slate named ‘Tsunami Slate of Merit’ was made with the view to reckon-surmise the real ‘on-ground impact factor’ of different institutional entities, relief projects and individuals with reference to Tsunami in the UN-DRR perspectives.
The selection slate draped a summing-up of 17 out-scored projects and 21 organizations. Amongst them are: the Oxfam, Save the Children, SOS, Rotary International, MAVSO Intl., Peak Freans-English Biscuits Manufacturers Ltd., Shadow Intl., and some regional and local organizations.
A scroll of gratitude has been given to the ‘Tsunami’s Un-sung Hero Award’ bequethee, MSS Salawal Salah, who volunteered in the hardest hit areas of dists. Galle, Hambantota, Kalmonai. The scroll is escorted with a sum of 7,50,000 LKR, for the young Sri Lankan philanthropic-striper Mr. Salah, 33, an acupuncturist, who stepped up to the portico-facade of one of the toughest tests of human solidarity, and is a licensed complementary therapist, certified under the WHO by the Colombo South Government General University and Teaching Hospital, Sri Lanka.
Another laurel of distinction ‘Tsunami’s Dame of Merit’ has been bequeathed on Dr. Bareera B. N., a Pakistani anthropologist, who rendered her services for Tsunami affected women, and came forward to accomplish EBM’s mission of food-supplments provisions in Tsunami refugees’ camps to address the mal-nutrition in babies as well as women. She presently serves as the SAARC-inscribed ombudsperson for ethno-centric and gender-centric concerns.
A resolution has been unanimously passed by academicians from all major universities across the Tsunami-hit costal belt of Asia, that acclaims to establish a KAKHTAH Post-doc Multiversity in SAARC region, along with a post doc scholarship for DRR studies under the UN-HFA perspectives.
The famous historic bridge on River Kwai has been renamed as ‘KAKHTAH-Tsunami Bridge’ to mark the 10th anniversary of Tsunami.
In several universities within the SAARC region, a number of ‘KAKHTAH Disaster Forecasting Centers’ are agreed to be instituted with a vision of cross-boundary and cross-disciplinary integration for disaster preparedness. UNESCO chairs at Punjab University and COMSATS become the first to establish the KAKHTAH repository in Pakistan, for disaster forecasting and preparedness, affirm the VC Prof. Dr. Mujahid Kamran, Dr. Hassan, UNESCO chair holder at COMSATS and Dr. Khalida M. Khan, holder of the UNESCO chair at PU.
Principal investigators of SAIRI Research Initiative, Prof. Dr. Aurangzeb Hafi and Professor Emeritus Dr. Zaki urge the UN, international organizations, and the government of Pakistan to pay focused attention on the present pressing crisis of Tharparkar drought, that is causing a rapid increase in child mortality due to severe malnutrition. He also emphasized on ‘disability-inclusive and pregnancy-inclusive protocols’ in disasters management policy frameworks. Prof. Hafi is credited for pioneering the cutting-edge concepts of pre-birth multiple disabilities risk assessment, embryonic toxicity and teratogenic proneness factor analysis among pregnant women during Tsunami 2004, along with his fabled DESPO appraisals on disability+pregnancy inclusive special protocols in cataclysmic emergencies and DRR modus of pre-disastrous as well as post-disastrous phases.
The ‘Decade Summit of Asian Tsunami’ is scheduled to be concluded by the UNISDR-SAARC conjoint institutional stretch-term of DRR convergence by 1/10/2015. The summit consists of 23 formal academic sessions, over 67 webinars, video conferences, workshops and 49 high-level round the table panel discussions. Recommendations are to be made to the governments and other quarters of relevance, on strategic as well as thematic issues like early warning system, emergency action plans, disaster preparedness and marginal groups’ inclusiveness schema-protocols.