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UNESCO Director-General expresses distress over Pacific tsunami deaths

Paris, 1 October

UNESCO Director-General expresses distress over Pacific tsunami deaths
  • © UNESCO/M. Ravassard

The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today expressed distress over the deaths provoked by the tsunami that hit the Pacific Ocean on 29 September. Mr Matsuura also urged governments to maintain efforts to improve national response systems and protect coastal communities.

“I am deeply distressed by the losses provoked by this most recent tsunami in the Pacific Ocean,” Mr Matsuura said. “The Pacific Ocean is the most tsunami-prone region of the world. It is simply wrong to suggest that many Pacific islands are sheltered from major risk because they are too small to ‘capture’ the wave or are protected by surrounding coral reefs.

“National authorities must maintain and constantly improve their communications and warning systems to help protect coastal populations, which are inevitably vulnerable to such phenomena.”

Media reports indicate that over 100 people were killed when a tsunami, provoked by a powerful underwater earthquake, struck the islands of Upolu and Savaii (Samoa) and Tutuila (American Samoa).

While the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System coordinated by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) issued a clear warning throughout the region 16 minutes after the quake, coastal residents in some areas did not get the information in time. In regions very close to the site of the earthquake, the short time available to warn and evacuate coastal populations poses a major challenge to local authorities.

The tragic deaths of 29 September highlighted the need for governments to improve emergency response mechanisms and public awareness so that all communities might benefit from the advance warning that is available at the regional level.

  • Author(s):UNESCOPRESS
  • Source:Press Release No.2009-107
  • 02-10-2009
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