Purpose – To highlight the failure of the tsunami early warning system and the challenges of successfully responding to, and managing a transnational catastrophe of this nature. The paper also highlights unique challenges in the management of this catastrophe and suggests potential strategies for good disaster response and management in this response and beyond. Design/methodology/approach – Primary data collection was by telephone interviews with experts in the South and South‐East Asian region, supplemented by a comprehensive literature review of scholarly journals, reports from relief agencies and United Nations situation reports and bulletins amongst others. The scope of the paper is limited to the issue of a warning not been passed onto appropriate authorities in the region, the unique challenges of the relief response and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected communities. Findings – From the study, there is a need for further investigation into the catastrophic warning failure; as reasons proffered by the early warning officials for their inability to pass on a warning to authorities in the affected area appear weak at this stage. The study also found unique geographical, political, economic and social challenges facing the international relief and reconstruction effort. Specifically some of the challenges include the management of the media and information, logistics and coordination, needs and damage assessment, donations and safety and security issues amongst others. In summary, the author found that there is also a need for foreign assistance agencies to be seen to be fair, to build trust and ownership of relief and reconstruction efforts amongst the local populace, as well as use local people as much as possible. Research limitations/implications – The study was conducted only 21 days (three weeks) after the tsunami catastrophe of 26 December 2004, hence it is a snapshot of events in the days immediately after the catastrophe. The relief action is an on‐going event and there may be changes as new information emerges from the field. Practical implications – A world wide network of integrated submarine earthquake and tsunami monitoring and early warning system should be set up. Critical warning information in any potential disaster should be shared as inclusively as possible. Relief workers must be seen to be politically and religiously neutral, especially in the civil conflicts of Banda Aceh Indonesia. Finally relief and aid should be given on the basis of sound humanitarian principles such as need, not just on wider economic criteria. Originality/value – The study highlights specific potential challenges which relief organisations must deal with in responding effectively to the disaster, and in assisting to reconstruct the region. The paper proffers specific strategies for effective management of the international assistance effort. Finally, the study adds to the literature on developing countries and is valuable for governments, emergency and relief workers, policy makers in both developed and developing countries.
Disaster Prevention and Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Sep 1, 2005
Keywords: Tidal waves; ; Naval disasters; South Asia; South East Asia
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