Petra Nemcova
Model Petra Nemcova poses during a photocall ahead of the Chopard Gold Party during the 68th Cannes Film Festival.Reuters

Model and activist Petra Nemcova was vacationing in Thailand in 2004 when a tsunami hit Khao Lak. She lost her partner, Simon Atlee, in that disaster which killed 226,000 people across 12 countries.

Speaking at an event in New York to mark the World Tsunami Awareness Day, Petra Nemcova said, "The Indian Ocean Tsunami acted as a wake-up call in many countries which have upgraded their early warning systems and are organising regular tsunami drills to better protect people at risk."

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has now released a report that there are likely to be more tsunamis and deaths as a result over the next 15 years. According to the report, the projected increase in deaths and number of affected from tsunamis globally are likely to increase by 16 percent in the next 15 years.

The world regions at risk according to the report include South Asia and South East Asia with a projected increase in deaths and number of affected at 19 percent and 14 percent respectively. "South and South East Asia, together with parts of South America, would suffer the greatest numbers of dead and affected in absolute terms, with only East Asia and Europe seeing small declines due to expected falls in their respective populations," it adds.

According to the report, in addition to major tsunamis typically caused by submarine earthquakes, people living on exposed shores and river deltas are also vulnerable to lower-impact tsunamis associated with earthquakes. The UN office also says that countries near the Indian Ocean need to prioritise disaster mitigation policies to reduce tsunami impact. Tsunamis pose a major threat to "critical infrastructure, including nuclear power plants and airports" and hence disaster mitigation policies need to put up at the earliest.

"Today's conversation has shown us that through awareness and preparedness, lives can be saved and livelihoods and vital infrastructure can be protected. National and local risk reduction strategies should systematically adopt a multi hazard approach to early warning, preparedness, response, and reconstruction," said Neil McFarlane from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction stated.

"We have the Sendai Framework, adopted in 2015 in Japan, which is a real guide to follow with concrete measures and policies to achieve more resilience," he added.

Over the past 100 years, at least 58 tsunamis have killed more than 260,000 people worldwide. The Indian Ocean disaster in 2004 was the deadliest of all, claiming approximately 226,000 lives in 14 countries, the vast majority in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. The victims included around 9,000 foreign tourists.

Tsunami safety tips:

  • Be aware of any earthquakes that last 20 seconds or more near the coast.
  • If you notice a rapid rise and fall of sea water, it could be a tsunami warning.
  • If you are a tourist, familiarise yourself with tsunami evacuation procedures.
  • If you hear a tsunami warning, evacuate the area at once.
  • If there is a tsunami warning, get to higher ground as far inland as possible.

Source: Red Cross