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Clinton, in Aceh, Calls for Better Tsunami Warning

  • Chad Bouchard

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton wants disaster preparation in areas vulnerable to tsunamis to be stepped up, and called for faster work at sheltering thousands of people still homeless after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

Mr. Clinton made his comments in Indonesia's Aceh province, during his final visit as UN special envoy for tsunami recovery.

Former President Clinton surveyed reconstruction in Indonesia's Aceh province and said agencies need to do a better job of housing people displaced by the disaster. He also emphasized the need for better disaster prevention programs.

Aceh suffered the worst devastation from the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, losing more than 160,000 people. Whole cities and towns in the province, which sits on the northern end of Indonesia's Sumatra Island, were washed away.

There have been widespread complaints from tsunami victims still living in temporary shelters across the affected area, almost two years after the disaster struck.

Eric Schwartz, the UN's deputy special envoy for tsunami recovery, says the reconstruction effort has made progress, but only about a third of the displaced people have been placed in permanent homes.

"They've built about 40, 45,000 so far. That is a significant accomplishment, but they are going to have to build well over 100,000 all told. So that is a big challenge. And then infrastructure repair and support is also going to be a very big challenge in the years to come."

Schwartz says Mr. Clinton is also pushing for expanded community education about disaster preparation, and has encouraged donors to fund a 52 million dollar assistance package to help reduce the impact of disasters in the future.

"That is the area where an enormous amount of work still needs to be done. And it is very resource-intensive work, in terms of a national, regional, provincial and local communications systems and education of local populations."

Mr. Clinton's tour also included stops in India and Thailand earlier this week.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Mr. Clinton and former U.S. President George H.W. Bush as special envoys for tsunami relief for a two-year period. Their tenure will end December 31st.

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