Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The decision to evacuate the people of Maldives lies with the people: Annan

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said the decision whether to evacuate the people of Maldives lies with the Maldives' people, reports Hilath Rasheed from Haveeru. Annan held a press conference at the airport before leaving Maldives on Monday after concluding his tour of the countries hit by the tsunami.

“I think it is a decision that has to be made by the leaders and the government of Maldives,” Annan told a press conference at the Male International Airport before wrapping up a two-day visit in which he visited Kolhufushi and Vilufushi, two southern islands which were devastated by the tsunami which left more than 2000 people homeless on these two islands alone.

Annan pointed out that while Indian Ocean states are presently pondering on setting up a tsunami warning system, Maldives faces a difficult and unique situation because there is no higher ground in the 1,190 islands which do not rise 1.5 meters above sea level.

Officials of Maldives have floated the idea of emigrating to Australia should sea level rise by one meter over the next 50 to 100 years due to global warming as predicted by scientists. However, the Maldives government had previously refuted the idea and the Australian government has said that it has received no such request from the Maldives' government.

Scientists have said that last month’s tsunami was a “dress rehearsal” for Maldives before it will be totally submerged by waves sometime this century.

Annan also praised the strong communtiy spirit and voluntarism among the islanders.

“I am happy to hear that (Maldives) children will be going to school this month. It shows that the healing has already started here,” Annan told reporters late Sunday after meeting President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom at the five-star Kurumba Maldives resort which was one of the few islands which escaped with relatively minor damages from last month’s tsunami.

“I am surprised by the strong community spirit and sense of voluntarism among the islanders. In the two islands I visited today, I saw how people from one island were helping the other after the tsunami left many homeless. This shows much promise for Maldives’ recovery and reconstruction efforts,” Annan said.

Annan said that at the pledging conference to be held in Geneva on Tuesday, where he would make a flash appeal for 977 million dollars for recovering efforts of Asia’s 12 affected countries, he would try to get 66 million dollars for Maldives’ relief efforts.

The Maldives’ government has said that the country will need more than 200 million dollars for relief efforts and another 1.5 billion dollars for reconstruction.


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