04 January 2005

Maldives struggles to house thousands after tsunami

The low-lying Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives said today it was struggling to house five percent of its population after tsunami waves destroyed islands and resorts, killing at least 82 people. "In 14 islands there are no structures standing and in other islands even where walls are still standing they are not habitable," chief government spokesman, Ahmed Shaheed said.

The chain of 1 200 tiny palm-fringed coral islands dotted across 500 miles of ocean off the toe of India and standing only a few feet (barely a metre) above sea level was severely affected by the tsunami, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency and appeal for immediate international aid. Shaheed said 14 islands had been flattened and another 53 severely affected, leaving some 15,000 people displaced out of the country's 300,000 population.

The Maldives has received some $3 million so far in aid from Pakistan, India, Japan and other nations to help rebuilding work estimated at $1 billion. "There is a massive international effort here, but this does not solve the main problem of housing. We are looking at building 4,000 houses from scratch," Shaheed said.

He said the cost of housing alone would be about $70 million. Many schools, jetties, ports and other coastal structures have also been destroyed. The archipelago is also running out of drinking water and a few cases of diarrhoea have been reported in some camps for the homeless. "About 79 islands don't have safe drinking water," he said.

Meanwhile, the Maldives was keeping an eye out for dead bodies and debris from other disaster-hit countries being washed ashore, posing a possible health threat to its people. "Given the scale of the devastation, carcasses, parts of boats, timber and other debris is likely to get washed onto our shores from nearby countries," Shaheed said.


Post a Comment

<< Home