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Top UN Official Vows of Asian Tsunami, 'Never Again'

While hailing the swift movement of aid to the victims of the earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit 12 countries, United Nations relief officials are putting plans into action to ease the deadly fall-out from future disasters of this scale.

One of the major plan is to put in place a global system to warn of potential ocean disasters, which the United Nations hopes to start setting in place by next year.

The U.N.'s top relief official, Jan Egeland, vows to implement tsunami education programs in communities around the world. The Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs says the scale of human suffering from the huge wave should never have happened.

"Tens of thousands of parents sent their children down to the beach to swim when the tsunami was on its way," he said. "Many fishermen went out with their boats just before the tsunami struck. I think here in Kobe we should really be able say 'never, ever again.'"

U.N. officials say the rescue and recovery response heralds a new era of cooperation among international agencies and governments and also between civil agencies and militaries.

There have been no reports of starvation or widespread disease outbreaks, as had been feared.

The global response to the tsunami and huge aid donations are raising hope at this conference that such generosity will help alleviate human misery around the world and will be repeated when fresh disasters strike.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Thursday said the Kobe conference will be a failure unless it goes beyond rhetoric. The federation says delegates from the 150 participating nations must take firm measures to substantially reduce the number of people killed and affected by natural disasters by 2015.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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