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Brussels, 2 October 2009

EU assists Asian and Asia‑Pacific nations in aftermath of tropical storm Ketsana and earthquakes in the Pacific

EU countries have offered assistance through the Community Civil Protection Mechanism following a series of disasters that struck Asia and the Asia-Pacific region over the last three days, claiming thousands of lives. Following the devastating earthquake on Sumatra, an EU assessment team is on its way to Indonesia. An EU civil protection expert is arriving in Samoa today following the earthquake in the Pacific on Tuesday. An EU expert is already on the ground in the Philippines following tropical storm Ketsana earlier this week.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “We extend our sympathies and deep regret at the loss of life and suffering caused by the disasters that have hit the Philippines, Samoa and Indonesia in recent days. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism has reacted very swiftly to the current emergency situation and stands ready to assist. EU coordination is important to bringing speedy and effective relief. "

The Civil Protection Mechanism was activated on 1 October following the earthquake in Indonesia, just off the island of Sumatra on 30 September. Over 1,000 people are estimated to have died and thousands could still be trapped under collapsed buildings. Indonesia welcomed international assistance. Estonia and Sweden have offered in-kind assistance such as advanced medical posts and tents through the Mechanism. The assistance will be transported to Indonesia in a Swedish plane. The Swedish and Estonian authorities will apply for transport co-funding under the Civil Protection Financial Instrument (50% co-financing).   An assessment team composed of civil protection experts from Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, France and Norway together with a MIC liaison officer are on their way to Indonesia today to help gather more information about the extent of the damage and the emergency needs.

The request for help from Indonesia follows two earlier requests to the Community Civil Protection Mechanism for assistance this week. On 29 September, the Philippines called for international assistance after tropical storm Ketsana hit the country on 26 September. The death toll reached 246 and there is extensive damage to infrastructure. An EU civil protection expert from Sweden was selected for the UN team that started its assessment mission in the country on 30 September. The disaster management expertise of the EU expert will make an important contribution to the overall assessment.

Also on 29 September, the Samoan islands were hit by a tsunami after a powerful seaquake in the Pacific. The government report 110 dead. The tsunami disrupted infrastructure. The Government of Samoa declared a state of emergency and appealed for international assistance on 30 September. While most of the assistance is coming from the Asia-Pacific region, an EU water management expert from Austria is joining the UN assessment team on the ground to contribute to their assessment of the damage and needs.

The European Commission is also responding to immediate humanitarian needs in the wake of these three disasters through its Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO). During the course of this week, ECHO has allocated €7.15 million in fast-track humanitarian funding in response to the disasters that have struck the Asia-Pacific region in the past week (€3m for Indonesia, €2m for the Philippines, €2m for Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos and €150,000 for Samoa/Tonga). Experts from the Commission's humanitarian aid department (ECHO) have been despatched to the crisis zones in the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam to liaise with implementing partners and undertake needs assessments.

The Community Mechanism for Civil Protection

The Community Mechanism facilitates cooperation in disaster response. 31 states participate in the Community Mechanism (EU-27 plus Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). They pool those resources that can be made available to disaster-stricken countries all over the world through the Mechanism. When activated, the Mechanism ensures the coordination of assistance interventions inside and outside the European Union. Such activities are coordinated by the European Commission through the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), located in DG Environment, Civil Protection Unit.

Since its creation in 2001, the Mechanism has been activated for disasters worldwide, including Hurricane Katrina in the US in 2005, the 2008 earthquake in China and the forest fires in Southern Europe this summer

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