Maldives: Safe shelter to protect against natural disasters

from Maldives Independent
Published on 18 Feb 2009 View Original
Maryam Omidi

A multi-purpose safe shelter is being built on Muli, Meemu atoll to shelter around 1,000 people in the event of a natural disaster.

The building will be used for community activities on a day-to-day basis but will be equipped to shelter people from earthquakes, tsunamis, and wind speeds up to 40 per cent higher than that specified for Maldives coastal areas.

The ground laying ceremony was held yesterday to "demonstrate the importance the national authorities have placed on the safety of island communities," according to an official from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The 2004 South Asia tsunami she added "prompted recognition of the country's vulnerability to natural disasters."

Innovative design

The shelter is a two-storey building with an open terrace. Each storey is around 174.5 sq metres in size.

It will house a 45,000 litre underground rainwater tank; a storehouse for food and life-saving drugs; an operations centre with communications equipment; and will be able to generate power for up to three days.

The building has been designed to allow for vertical evacuation which means people will be able to move upwards to a high central location in times of flooding.

The total cost of the shelter is US$333,498. Funds were provided primarily by the UAE Red Crescent (US$200,000) with the remainder from various sources.

Deputy island chief Moosa Naseer has said he was "very happy" about the project. "People can use it for meetings in normal life but also in disasters."

At the ceremony, Meemu atoll councillor Mohamed Adhil said the community would make full use of the building to benefit both the island and the atoll.


Muli was identified as a vulnerable island in a "high tsunami hazard zone", in need of measures to mitigate ecological disasters, according to Gemma Perez, disaster risk reduction project manager at UNDP.

The island was further selected to complement a UNDP community disaster preparedness programme, which included a disaster simulation drill in December 2006.

Perez said the UNDP was supporting the government to help prepare communities with disaster management and emergency response.

On the multi-purpose safe shelter, she said, "This is a small and modest initiative to educate island communities on basic preparedness procedures which they can take before, during and after a disaster aimed at enabling them to be better prepared to handle, cope and manage a disaster that may occur in the future.

"When a disaster strikes, the island communities are the first responders and the frontliners [at least] during the first 24-48 hours, thus developing the local communities' capacities on disaster preparedness is imperative."

She added the UNDP was in favour of supporting the government's proposal to develop a national early warning system.

In addition to assistance provided in 2006 to buy and install early warning equipment, the UNDP would help improve the National Meteorological Centre's ability to "receive, monitor and analyse" relevant meteorological information.

Speaking at the ceremony, Abdullah Shahid, minister of state for housing, transport and environment, said that by mid-2010, in addition to safety equipment, the National Disaster Management Centre aims to link all islands through a communication system to be used during emergencies.

Maldives Independent: