The world's response to the incredible December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was initially focused on the need for early warning systems. Unfortunately, little has been done on the need for ongoing cooperation between countries and regions potentially affected by such events.
It was an impressive and at the same time shocking event without comparison with any other natural disaster of recent history which affected the lives of so many people. Originating from an earthquake at sea off Sumatra, Indonesia, attacked remote coastal areas as far as the eastern coast of Africa. Hundreds of thousands of victims have been reported from numerous countries.
The world became aware of the lack of cooperation in the affected areas in the context of disaster management. For this reason, radically improved disaster planning and management were proposed in the event of a tsunami.
At this point, we must inform you that at that time there were no operational contingency plans in the region. Even worse, the warnings issued during and before the tsunami arrived meant little in practice for the existing response plans. Also, the discussions that followed focused mainly on technology, to the exclusion of important capacity building, security and cooperation issues. Later, however, things changed when the experience began to show that lack of cooperation had triggered response problems in the affected areas. Experts also began to highlight the need to develop a "vast culture of resilience" and to establish regional and international emergency response systems. Worth mentioning, one of the issues mentioned above is increasing public awareness of these events.
So what do we do with the affected and concerned areas?
A logical concern, but generating practical interest in disaster response planning is normally very difficult. However, following the tragic events of the December 2004 tsunami, there was a worldwide concern about disaster management. And that was positive.
Initiatives included the announcement of a collaborative information-sharing system and advanced early warning systems. It follows that in areas where countries show a willingness and commitment to undertake joint planning and management of the tsunami response, we can look forward to a solution. But a question started to spread: what if that tsunami happened also to us?
A region of such ongoing concern is the Mediterranean.
The video's conclusion is quite obvious. Strengthen the joint response.
Yes, both experts and local societies are concerned about such a tsunami in the Mediterranean. Experts have made it a priority to develop a Mediterranean early warning system. They claim also that in the hours following the tragedy, people will face the devastation and human tragedy of the tsunami. As a consequence of numerous Mediterranean panels, collaborative actions have begun to be proposed to mitigate the impacts of tsunamis and similar disasters and ensure better preparation of citizens and authorities.
But to what extent does that apply in practice to the Mediterranean?
Their chronic difficulties indeed matter. Also, the conclusions drawn by the tsunami response planners and managers were based not only on past evidence but also on current Mediterranean realities. Specifically, the experts proposed coordinated and harmonised assessments of affected coastal populations throughout the area. Some also proposed the development of predictive guidelines for the protection of Mediterranean coastal communities against serious tsunamis.
Another aspect of the disaster is the need to meet emergency humanitarian needs. The immediate response to the needs of affected local communities has triggered the proposal to develop community-based approaches to humanitarian issues and the support and restoration of affected populations.
However, this is not enough.
The development of coastal "bioshield" procedures combined with natural measurements proved to be a very important part of the proposed response. The establishment and implementation of "no construction areas" in dynamically vulnerable areas were considered an important security issue. Finally, and perhaps the most important proposition was the development of regional/international cooperation mechanisms to link governments, agencies, institutions, communities and individuals.
Last but not least, is the role that governments and the media should play in early warning and prevention of potential outbreaks of the disease in these emergencies. Important: Successful Mediterranean community efforts to prepare effective responses need to be sustained over generations.
The December 2004 tsunami inspired the Mediterranean community to be involved in the prevention of a similar catastrophic event. But translating these good intentions and major projects into effective actions in the Mediterranean proved to be a difficult issue. Sound strategies have recently been proposed through hard work at the community level. In this region, they support not only the development of an early warning system but also the strong involvement of the various communities.