UN chief stresses value of disaster preparation on first World Tsunami Day

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An aerial view of the vast destruction of the Indonesian coast caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. UN File Photo / E. Schneider

Although tsunamis are rare, failing to prepare for them could exact a heavy price.

That's the message from the UN Secretary-General this Saturday, the first-ever World Tsunami Day.

Tsunamis are series of waves that can reach as high as 100 feet (30.5 metres), and are extremely destructive.

They have killed more than 250,000 people in 20 countries over the past two decades.

Dianne Penn reports.

World Tsunami Day commemorates the day in 1854 when a Japanese village leader improvised an early warning system—setting fire to rice sheaves—to alert people to an approaching tsunami.

The UN Secretary-General pointed out that early warning systems have become more sophisticated with time, including in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

More than 220,000 people died in that tragedy, which led to the establishment of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System.

Mr Ban said tsunamis can also threaten major infrastructure, citing the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011, which claimed many lives, left many more homeless and triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

World Tsunami Awareness Day, therefore, serves as a reminder of the importance of reducing current and future levels of risk, he stated.

Mr Ban said though tsunamis may be rare, like with any other natural hazard, "if we fail to prepare and raise awareness, then we risk paying a heavy price."

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 1’12″

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