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06.01.2005 Disaster

Commonwealth sends Disaster Relief Coordinator to Maldives

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Accra, Jan. 6, GNA - The Commonwealth Secretariat is sending a Disaster Relief Coordinator to Maldives to assess the needs of the country and to coordinate relief rehabilitation work following the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster of December 26 2004.

Colonel Linton Graham of Jamaica will spend up to two weeks in Maldives beginning January 6.

He will assist in coordinating relief efforts to meet the urgent needs of the country as it comes to term with the consequences of the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami.

All of the 199 inhabited islands in the archipelago have been affected. More than 80 people have lost their lives while more than 20,000 people have lost their homes or are displaced. Thirty-seven islands have had infrastructure completely destroyed and 13 inhabited islands have had to be totally evacuated. The Maldives Government estimates the damage to infrastructure will cost billions of dollars.

Colonel Graham's key tasks will be to facilitate an assessment of the immediate and long term needs of Maldives and to support the establishment of the necessary infrastructure and logistical mechanisms for delivering humanitarian aid to the country. He will report to the National Disaster Assessment and Relief coordination centre of Maldives.

A statement from the Commonwealth said, Colonel Graham coordinated relief efforts in Jamaica after extensive floods in 1979 and 1997 and the destruction caused by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. He also assisted in hurricane relief work in Haiti.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon appointed Colonel Graham following an urgent request by the Government of Maldives for assistance.

Announcing his appointment, the Secretary-General said, "Colonel Graham brings substantial experience of managing disasters in small island states.

"I am sure he will make a valuable contribution in assisting an island nation, which has sadly demonstrated its particular vulnerability to natural disasters".

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