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A tsunami or tidal-wave is a phenomenon caused by the displacement of a large body of water and resembling a rapidly rising tide lasting from a few minutes to several hours. Tsunamis are most of the time the result of an earthquake on the ocean/sea floor. The devastating effect of such disasters is created when the waves reach the coastline to sometimes reach several kilometers inland, destroying everything in their path.
The December 2004 tsunami ravaged coastal communities off the Indian Ocean, claiming nearly a quarter of a million lives in 12 countries. India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand were among the hardest hit. The death toll in the worst-affected region of Indonesia alone was more than 165 000, while thousands of kilometers of coastline in India were devastated.
The fisheries and aquaculture sectors suffered major setbacks. Thousands of boats, fishing nets and gear – as well as infrastructure, including ice plants and cold rooms – were damaged or destroyed. Crops, livestock and coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves and tree crops, were also severely damaged.
It was a disaster of unprecedented proportions, prompting an unprecedented outpouring of resources for recovery and reconstruction efforts. This presented an opportunity for governments and partners to work together to “build back better” – restoring livelihoods, rehabilitating ecosystems and improving the overall wellbeing and resilience of vulnerable communities.
In helping tsunami-affected fishing and farming families get back on their feet, for example, efforts were made by FAO and partners to ensure compliance with international environmental, health and safety standards, from boat construction to fisheries to the management of sustainable natural resources.
Likewise, after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile in 2010, causing widespread damage and triggering a tsunami, FAO provided affected fishing communities with boats, motors, nets, diving equipment, ice machines and navigation kits, while working to improve safety standards and marketing opportunities.