A fund that helped set up a tsunami early-warning system in the wake of the December 26, 2004 disaster that claimed 240,000 lives in Asia on Monday expanded its scope to include other calamities.
The Tsunami Regional Trust Fund, set up in 2005 after a massive wave took a dozen countries around the Indian Ocean by surprise, has been transformed into the ESCAP Multi-disaster Trust Fund, United Nations officials said.
‘There is an urgent need for improving regional preparedness for disasters in the Asia-Pacific and today’s action is a critical step forward in permitting the best prepared countries to assist others in the region,’ said Noeleen Heyzer, executive secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for the Asia-Pacific.
The fund was set up with an initial donation of 10 million dollars from Thailand, which lost 5,000 people to the 2004 tsunami, and 2.6 million dollars from Sweden.
Hundreds of Swedish tourists vacationing on Thailand’s Andaman Sea coast lost their lives in the tsunami.
The fund contributed 4.5 million dollars toward setting up the tsunami early-warning system for countries by the Indian Ocean.
The expanded fund will finance projects to enhance early-warning systems for climate-related disasters such as typhoons and floods, Heyzer said.
‘With its new mandate we hope the fund will help reduce the loss of life and property from other types of natural disasters that seem to strike our region much more regularly than tsunamis,’ Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said.
He called on other countries in the region to contribute to the new fund, in which Thailand remains the largest donor to date.