June 25, 2005

Tsunami Rebuild ‘To Take 10 Years’

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) -- Despite the historic size of relief efforts, it will take as long as 10 years to rebuild what was destroyed in the tsunami that hit Asia last year, the United Nations said on Friday.

"It took between five and 10 seconds to destroy thousands of communities. Five to 10 seconds to wipe away 225,000 people," U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland told a news conference.

"It will take five to 10 years to rebuild all that was lost. We are in for a very long haul," he said after a meeting with the European Union to review the situation.

Egeland said about $11 billion in total had been pledged in aid by 90 donor nations, an unprecedented aid response.

"I can recall no other effort like this, no other demonstration of compassion ever," he said.

Egeland said the quick response to the disaster, which left over 230,000 people dead or missing, had provided more than a million victims with food, emergency shelter and medical help within weeks after the tsunami struck.

But he said more had to be done and that future reconstruction had to be carried out in the right manner.

Egeland warned against construction that would have to be torn down at a later stage because it was built in the wrong place, of the wrong quality, or built without consulting local communities and governments.

He also said there were dangers in delaying projects, because while emergency shelters did cover people's basic needs, many wanted to return to normal life.

The United Nations has created an Internet system to track where tsunami aid is being spent. It covers U.N. funding and is being linked to other organizations.

The 25-nation EU has pledged some 2.3 billion euros ($2.78 billion) in aid for 2005 and following years. The bloc has spent large amounts on humanitarian aid, but so far only a small percentage on reconstruction.

EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel stressed the need to get reconstruction under way.

"What I can draw as conclusions on the basis of this morning's discussion is that we have to focus mainly on reconstruction," he said.