Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message for World Tsunami Day, observed 5 November:
This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami, when 230,000 lives were tragically lost in 14 countries. Since then, we have seen great improvement in early warning systems, not only for the Pacific Ocean but also for the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, the North-East Atlantic, the Mediterranean and others. As a result, many lives have been saved.
However, it is clear from the growing economic losses over the last 20 years that we have not yet fully learned the importance of disaster-proofing critical infrastructure. This is essential to avoid the disruption to important public services that can occur during tsunamis, earthquakes and extreme weather events.
The risks remain immense. An estimated 680 million people live in low-lying coastal zones; by 2050, this number might surpass 1 billion. At the same time, rising sea levels caused by the climate emergency may further exacerbate the destructive power of tsunamis.
Risk reduction will be crucial to our efforts to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals. On World Tsunami Awareness Day, I encourage Governments, local authorities and the construction industry to pursue risk-informed development and invest in resilience.