On December 26, 2004, an earthquake at the bottom of the Indian ocean triggered an enormous tsunami that washed over large swaths of Southern Asia. Though Sri Lanka was technically only the second hardest-hit country (Indonesia having seen the most death and destruction,) it still experienced an overwhelming loss of life and infrastructure. On that day nearly 10 years ago, 40,000 Sri Lankans were killed as the massive wave crashed over their homes, schools and offices.
We all remember that day, so it’s no surprise that Sri Lankans have not forgotten the pain they endured that day and in the months and years that followed in which they strove to rebuild what they could of what was lost. By better preparing themselves for natural disasters, Sri Lankans hope to ensure that rebuilding their communities has not been for naught.
Research efforts supported by the International Development Research Centre have been used to design alert systems that will increase Sri Lankan safety and better inform communities when disasters are headed their way, giving individuals more time to protect themselves and their families. These new alert systems were specifically created to be able to access even the most remote areas of Sri Lanka, where inadequate communication on behalf of government authorities left unaware individuals most vulnerable.
To be used in circumstances of tsunami, tornadoes, earthquakes and other “rapid-onset disasters,” the new national warning system is sure to save many lives with the next natural disaster that hits Sri Lanka. By investing in the safety of its citizens, Sri Lanka is also investing in a more prosperous populace.
Natural disasters can quickly throw individuals into abject poverty, leveling their homes and workplaces in a span of minutes. Though the new alert system does not strengthen the infrastructure rebuilt in the 10 years since the Boxing Day tsunami, by allowing individuals to seek shelter sooner when natural disasters are headed toward them, Sri Lanka is simultaneously allowing those individuals to protect themselves and their families against the destruction these disasters can wreak on humans, which itself can cost thousands of dollars.
Other developing nations would be wise to emulate Sri Lankan safety by better preparing themselves for the natural disasters that occur in their corners of the world. Protection from destruction is a step toward flourishing in the future – a fate which many more Sri Lankans can now happily expect.
— Elise L. Riley