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Nine Years After the Tsunami, We Can Prevent Most Devastating Effects of Natural Disasters

Nine years ago today the world was left stunned as the most deadly natural disaster ever recorded devastated the Indian Ocean region.

Nine years ago today the world was left stunned as the most deadly natural disaster ever recorded devastated the Indian Ocean region.

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquake statistics are horrifying - 230,000 dead in 14 countries, across two continents. 130,000 confirmed deaths in Indonesia alone and almost two million people displaced.

Even countries physically unaffected by the disaster had citizens in the region who had lost their lives. The events on Boxing Day shocked the world and affected most people in varying degrees.

The human suffering continues to this day. People left homeless. People who lost their livelihood.

People who have lost their family and friends. People who survived that dark day but now suffer physical and mental disorders as a result.

I received a text message shortly after the tsunami telling me that one of my childhood friends had been a victim of the disaster. He had left behind a loving family: a wife and two daughters. The tsunami and his resulting death has changed their lives forever. Every Christmas, every birthday, every day they face sorrow because of something that was completely out of anyone's control.

In 2004, the only warning system in place in the Indian Ocean region to alert people to an impending onslaught of a natural disaster was through World War Two style sirens.

Nine years later, this is no longer the case. A new technology now exists that can save millions of lives by providing an early warning of natural disasters to citizens and tourists situated in at risk areas.

This disaster early-warning service technology now available has been developed by RegPoint together with the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS).

The service works by sending SMS messages immediately to all mobile phones in a designated area, providing precise warnings, guidance or other information before a disaster strikes.

It ensures that citizens who sign up to the service are given accurate information on the size, scale and expected time of the disaster. Crucially it provides advice on how best to secure their safety.

After the 2004 tsunami, internet connection was severely limited. Authorities struggled to communicate effectively to citizens after the disaster. However, it was still possible to send SMS text messages. This means that as well as being an early warning service, this new technology can provide a post disaster communication service.

The Indian Government recently took the important decision to adopt a natural disaster early warning system to save millions of lives. Regrettably, few other Governments in the region are taking steps to adequately protect their citizens.

The world remains vulnerable to natural disasters and the devastation that they bring. In 2004, the unimaginable happened and nine years later, the wider human impact from that darkest day cannot be calculated.

Governments cannot stop natural disasters from happening but they can take steps to help protect their citizens from the worst effects. The ability to prevent the most deadly effects of natural disasters has never been greater than now.

The tools are available to make sure that the world never witnesses such human loss as we witnessed in 2004. Governments must use them.