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Tsunami, 10 years after

December 26th 2004, off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, an undersea earthquake with a magnitude of nine degrees on the Richter scale took place. It was then about eight o’clock in Jakarta and Bangkok. The next day, Groupe URD took action by publishing on its website a first compendium of lessons learned from previous major disasters (such as Hurricane Mitch); and by mobilizing over 5 evaluations and major research three months after the tsunami and up to 4 years after the passage of the wave.

This earthquake, said one of the most violent ever recorded in the world [1], caused a tidal wave of exceptional violence that hit the coast from South-East Asia and South Asia until East Africa. Thirteen countries were officially affected - Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Somalia, Burma, Maldives, Malaysia, Tanzania, Seychelles, Bangladesh, Kenya, Reunion - with life losses estimated at 297,000 dead or missing.

Fortunately, a huge solidarity was immediately put in place globally, matching the level of emotion generated by the event: noisy solidarity, almost spectacular. Invasive perhaps even to the point that India, with as many as 15,000 deaths (mostly on the coasts of Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry) the third country most affected by the tsunami after Indonesia and Sri Lanka, explicitly said “No thank you" to international humanitarian aid. Does this mean that emergency aid is a particular problem? Why would India refuse it? What do the millions in aid from the Westerners mean? How to analyze this when the Philippine government after the massive response to Cyclone Haiyan, also said "Never again"?

Did the analysis of the media and financial onslaught, and the evaluation work that followed improve the quality of aid? In a sense, yes, because they have shown the importance of coordination, quality diagnosis and dangers of ultra-media. They also revealed the continuing difficulties in the reconstruction of housing sector, the relationship with national institutions and competition between aid agencies.

Several achievements are still important: the humanitarian reform launched by the UN tried to improve coordination. The role of national systems and risk prevention strategies has been at the heart of the Kobe negotiation that defined the Hyogo Framework for more resilient societies.

Finally, the establishment of Tsunami monitoring systems throughout the Indian Ocean, strengthening community preparedness mechanisms to risks and multiplication of response exercises throughout the area has enabled a real strengthening of the capacity to face the dangers of active seismicity of the whole area around the Arakan Sumatra-Java fault arc to the borders of the Indian Ocean.

[1] According to the American Geological Institute