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21 January 2005
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today estimated damage from Asia’s tsunami disaster to Indonesia’s environment would amount to US$675 million. The preliminary report, the first made by the UNEP on the tsunami’s environmental costs, put the damage in Indonesia at Rp 5.1 trillion ($675 million). In Aceh Province alone, the disaster damaged 25,000 ha of mangroves, some 29,200 ha of coral reefs and 120 ha of sea-grass beds, the report said. Coastal forests and a 300 km stretch of coastal lands were also damaged or lost, the report said. Other problem areas were the debris and waste caused by the tsunami, destruction of local environmental capacity – such as solid waste management – and damage to oil depots and other industrial sites that could lead to leaks of harmful chemicals. Indonesia has asked UNEP to establish an environmental crisis centre, and the Maldives has requested emergency waste management help and impact studies on coral reefs. Sri Lanka and Thailand have also asked for assistance in gauging damage to the environment, the UNEP said.
21 January 2005. Amidst speculation on the geographical impact of the recent disastrous earthquake and the tsunami, officials today said that an area in Port Blair may have sunk by a metre while the Andaman island appear to have twisted. “According to the recordings made by a tide gauge that was placed at a location in Port Blair, tsunami hit the area at 0714, Dec 26,” Secretary of the Department of Ocean Development Harsh Gupta said in New Delhi. “The record also indicates that base of the tide gauge went down in Port Blair,” Gupta said, adding the record is visible as a graph whose base went down. It means that the place sunk by about a metre due to the earthquake, which was the fifth largest to be recorded in history. The recording by another tide gauge at Chennai did not indicate such shifting in the baseline of the graph. The tsunami hit Chennai at 9:06 hours and Cochin at 11:12 hours, according to the records by these tide gauges, he said. Dr V.S. Ramamurthy, Secretary Department of Science and Technology, said that studies being carried out by various agencies in Andamans appear to indicate that the island has twisted. Gupta said four vessels were cruising the different tsunami affected regions. Preliminary results had started coming in, he said.
24 January 2005. The Indian Ocean tsunami is likely to cost Thailand’s lucrative tourism industry around 30 billion baht ($780 million) in lost revenues in 2005, its vice-minister for tourism said today. “We have noticed quite a drastic drop-off after the incident,” Krirk-krai Jirapaet told reporters at a meeting of tourism officials from the ten-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the Malaysian resort isle of Langkawi. “There were cancellations. We had a look at the possible annual performance of our industry, and the effect on the economy of Thailand. We thought we would lose about 30 billion baht of tourism, which is about 10 per cent of revenue in the previous years,” he said. The government has announced a series of soft loans for affected businesses, and hotel operators on the resort island of Phuket, which sustained localised damage, are trying to lure holidaymakers back with cut-price deals. Nearly 13,000 of the more than 41,000 hotel rooms on Phuket and the mainland provinces of Krabi and Phang Nga were destroyed, analysts say. However, the destruction will not dent the overall Thai economy, which is still expected to grow at between 5.5 and 6.5 per cent in 2005, the state economic planning agency said nearly two weeks after the disaster. The National Economic and Social Development Board said the reconstruction effort would offset property losses and business setbacks in the tourism sector, which accounts for around six per cent of the economy.
24 January 2005. A strong earthquake today rocked Andaman and Nicobar Islands and parts of southern Indian metropolis of Chennai, where panic-struck residents were seen running out of their houses in some areas. One of the strongest aftershocks since the 26 December earthquake that triggered killer tsunami waves, the tremor measuring 6.5 on the Richter Scale was recorded at 417, GMT off the west coast of Great Nicobar Islands, the MET Department said in New Delhi.
24 January 2005. Coral reefs surrounding Sri Lanka may not have suffered as much damage from the Indian Ocean tsunami as initially feared. Jerker Tamelander, marine program co-ordinator of the World Conservation Union in Sri Lanka, explained:A lot of the mechanical damage seems to have been caused by boats washing over coral reefs and in turn pushing over large boulders, so there’s very site-specific damage – whereas on the broad scale, the mechanical damage is much less.
Some of this damage came from material washed back from land “including motorbikes and TV sets” that resulted in “quite significant amounts of debris on several reefs.” Tamelander has completed a survey of reefs on Sri Lanka’s south-west coast. The area was badly affected on land, with “significant destruction” of terrestrial ecosystems. But in comparison, the underwater coral has not been badly affected, the BBC reported yesterday. The survey also found that the tsunami had little obvious effect on marine and fish populations. Tamelander said that fish looked “reasonably normal, both in terms of species composition and abundance.” However, he warned there may be problems yet with destruction to fish habitats and nursery grounds.
25 January 2005. Indonesia’s health ministry said today a total of 228,164 people are dead or missing in the 26 December earthquake and tsunami. The ministry’s crisis centre said 95,992 bodies have been recovered and buried and another 132,172 people were missing. The health ministry last week raised its death toll from the disaster to 173,981 by adding some 70,000 missing and presumed dead to its figure for confirmed deaths. The ministry’s crisis centre said many of the 132,172 missing are presumed to be dead, four weeks after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the tsunami it produced. However, an undetermined number of them may be alive and living in temporary camps or otherwise unaccounted for.
26 January 2005. Changes in the depths of waters, particularly the waters in the northern approach to the Straits of Malacca and Singapore were reported following the earthquake/tsunami incident in the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea on 26 December. There has been close liaison between the Hydrographic offices of Indonesia and Singapore to monitor the situation. Ships transiting the area have also been asked to report any changes in water depths. Since, the initial unconfirmed reports on 6 January, many ships have passed the area. No reported changes in water depths have been received and shipping traffic through the Straits remains smooth. However, as a precaution, ships transiting the Straits should continue to listen for broadcast of changes in depths, to turn on their echo sounders to check the depths of water and to advise the coastal VTS Authority of any depths less than charted. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) will continue to monitor the situation in the northern approach to the Straits of Malacca and Singapore together with the Indonesian Hydrographic office and the industry.
11 February 2005. Workers trudging through tsunami debris in Indonesia recovered more than 1,400 bodies, officials said today, while the British military announced it will pull its troops out of the area, a sign that much of the emergency relief work has been done. Hundreds of bodies are still being found daily nearly seven weeks after the 26 December earthquake and tsunami devastated Indonesia’s Aceh Province and hit ten other Indian Ocean countries. The find of 1,414 more bodies brought the death toll to more than 164,000. After initially saying the retrieval of bodies would likely be complete by June, the Red Cross now says several more months might be needed, agency spokeswoman Yrsa Grune said. Today, Indonesia revised its number of missing for the first time in two weeks, saying nearly 13,000 people have now been either confirmed dead, have been found alive in refugee camps, or have left Aceh. The missing tally stood at 114,922 – down from 127,774. The departure of Britain’s tiny contingent from Aceh follows that of most US troops, who had been spearheading the relief effort. About three dozen British pilots and other personnel have been in Aceh since 2 January, delivering aid and equipment. British forces will pull out Sunday (13 February), according to a statement posted on the web-site of the British Embassy in Jakarta. A Royal Navy vessel, the HMS Scott, remained in Indonesian waters with a team of British scientists and Indonesian naval officers conducting a detailed survey of the ocean floor near the earthquake’s epicentre off the coast of Sumatra Island. The ship was scheduled to depart 15 February. Finally, today, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer toured Aceh’s worst hit areas, the latest foreign dignitary to visit the region. Germany has pledged $660 million to the tsunami relief effort, making it one of the largest donors.
13 February 2005. Two aftershocks from the massive earthquake that triggered Asia’s tsunami rattled the Indonesian province of Aceh early today, as British forces providing relief prepared to leave the disaster zone. There were no reports of damage from the temblors, which struck about an hour apart and shook buildings in the provincial capital. One of the underwater quakes had a magnitude of 5.6, according to US Geological Survey, which had no immediate details about the second. Hundreds of bodies are still being found daily in the province seven weeks after the earthquake and tsunami. Indonesia said today that recovery workers in provincial capital Banda Aceh pulled 546 more bodies from debris left after the earthquake and tsunami, bringing the death toll to 118,767. However, with emergency relief efforts winding down about three dozen British pilots and other personnel were preparing to leave the area today. Their departure follows that of about 10,000 US troops, though another 5,000 remain, mostly based on US ships. Japanese forces said they would be out by March. The Royal Navy vessel HMS Scott remains in Indonesian waters with a team of British scientists and Indonesian naval officers conducting a detailed survey of the ocean floor near the earthquake’s epicentre off the coast of Sumatra island. The ship is collecting data using sonar that scientists hope can be used to develop a tsunami early-warning system –like the one that already exists in the Pacific – for the Indian Ocean region. Experts say thousands of lives could have been saved in December with even a few minutes advance notice. Several countries, including Thailand, Indonesia and India, have pushed to host a regional warning system, but nations ravaged by the tsunami agreed last month to create several centres rather than a single, centralized one. Thailand’s prime minister said over the weekend his country would have an initial tsunami early warning system in place by April and a fully operational one working within two years.
17 February 2005. At least US$30 million is required to rebuild Aceh’s tsunami-battered fishing fleets but costs may soar once an assessment of the heavily damaged western coast is completed, the United Nations said today. While the estimate provided an initial indication as to how much would eventually be required to rebuild Aceh’s fishing industry, there is a much larger problem: scores of traumatized fishermen who are reluctant to return to the ocean. This could result in a radical change in community structures, said United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization fisheries adviser Uli Schmidt. The FAO’s initial assessment – along the eastern coast – provided an indication of the scale of the damage to fishing fleets. Costs for the west coast – where an assessment will be conducted next week – are expected to be much higher, Schmidt said. More than 6,500 fishermen died, while about 5,200 boats were lost, the FAO said. At least US$9 million worth of wood will be required to build new boats while a further US$20 million will be needed for nets, engines and other fishing equipment.