Press Releases

    IHA/974
    28 December 2004

    United Nations Responds to Natural Disasters in Indian Ocean Countries

    NEW YORK, 26 December (OCHA) -- The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has dispatched the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team of experts to help the Government of Sri Lanka in coordinating the international response to massive tidal waves that struck this island nation.

    Additional United Nations emergency staff is being sent to other affected countries to reinforce United Nations capacity to support national governments’ efforts to respond to natural disasters in those countries.  The immediate humanitarian needs are portable sanitation facilities, medical supplies, tents and helicopters for evacuation of people.  The OCHA will make available initial emergency cash grants for governments of affected countries.

    “This is the first step in what will surely be a larger United Nations response to catastrophic losses suffered as a result of earthquakes and tidal waves this morning”, said Jan Egeland, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator.

    According to information from the United States Geological Survey, a series of earthquakes occurred this morning in the area of the western coast of Northern Sumatra in Indonesia, and Andaman Islands and Nicobar Islands.  The two strongest earthquakes had the magnitude of 8.9 on the Richter Scale and 7.3 on the Richter Scale.  The earthquakes have caused tsunamis -- massive tidal waves -- impacting several countries in the region.  According to media reports, as many as 7,000 people have been killed throughout the region.

    The Government of Sri Lanka has declared a state of emergency and requested international assistance.  The Government of the Maldives has also requested assistance from the international community today.

    The United Nations will work closely with governments of affected countries in order to address the needs of the victims.

    For its part, the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) has launched an appeal for 7.5 million Swiss francs for humanitarian needs caused by these disasters in Sri Lanka and India.  The European Community’s humanitarian branch -- known as ECHO -- has contributed 3 million euros.  The IFRC has also released 1 million Swiss francs from its emergency relief fund.

    For further information, please call Brian Grogan in New York on tel.: 201 315 1827; or Madeleine Moulin at OCHA-Geneva on tel.: +41 22 917 3160, e-mail: moulin-acevedo@un.org.

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