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The initial assessment of the tourism industry of Maldives after the flooding as a result of the earthquake off the west coast of Northern Sumatra, on December 26, 2004 has been completed.

In the aftermath of this disaster, three tourist fatalities were unfortunately encountered, while some others sustained minor injuries. Maldives being a dive destination is yet fortunate that no divers faced any fatal injuries during the incident.

 

The results of the resorts assessment indicate that out of the 87 resorts, 55 are fully operational, 13 are semi-operational and 19 are un-operational at this moment in time.

 

The semi-operational resorts have varying degrees of damage and require minor renovation work but are operational. The status of these “semi-operational” resorts are expected to be upgraded to the “fully operational” status within the coming weeks if not days as they repair the damages.

 

The un-operational resorts have sustained major damage which may require weeks to repair. Out of which six resorts are expected to take a few months for restoration and be fully operational.

 

The after effects of the Tsunami are not so severe on the tourism industry of the Maldives because each resort in the Maldives has its own infrastructure: the island’s own power supply, sewerage system, water supply and other support facilities. Because of this, the risk that may usually be associated with these types of disasters such as electrical accidents, water contamination, and epidemics are negligible. Further more due to the resort islands flatness and the sand quality, the floods receded reasonably quickly.

 

Source: Maldives Tourism Promotion Board

Relief work was underway across the whole Maldives’ archipelago after the country was hit by a tsunami on Sunday following an earthquake in Indonesia, Chief Government Spokesman Dr. Ahmed Shaheed said.

Food, water, clothing and medication have now reached all the islands, he said, adding that Red Cross and other international voluntary and relief agencies are now in Maldives.

 

Male International Airport on Hulhule island, which was briefly closed on Sunday, opened for international carriers on Sunday night itself after the runway was cleared from sea water. “The airport received no major damages,” an airport official said.

 

The first European tourists departing from Maldives arrived in Switzerland early Monday much to the joy of their families. "We're really relieved, I saw them arrive, they look like they're fine," said a relieved woman at Zurich airport who had come to pick up her daughter, son-in-law and baby. They had to cut short their one-week stay in Maldives.

 

Roughly half of the 320 people departing from Maldives arrived in Zurich on two Airbus jets. The other half had only left for their holidays in the Maldives early on Sunday but returned straightaway on the same plane, spending around 27 hours on planes or in waiting rooms.

 

All those who returned to Switzerland were in good health. According to representatives of Swiss insurer Elvia at the airport on Monday, 60 Swiss tourists vacationing in Maldives were slightly injured by the tsunami. "I was very lucky, I was at the Male International Airport to exchange my ticket so I could get an earlier flight," said David, a 37-year-old American living in Cologne, Germany. "I can't believe it, and now I'm going skiing," he said, unruffled, though he said his girlfriend was still waiting to be flown back from the Maldives to Duesseldorf in Germany.

 

About 65 tourists departed Maldives and arrived in Budapest on a Hungarian Malev airlines plane. A French tour operator chartered a plane to pick up 160 French tourists from Maldives, an insurance company providing the aircraft said in Paris. None of the tourists was hurt but the plane would have a doctor and psychiatrist on board in case, the Mondial Assistance company said.

 

Two Pakistan navy ships joined relief efforts, evacuating hundreds of tourists from Medhufushi tourist resort in Meemu atoll, Pakistani foreign ministry officials said in Islamabad. The vessels were already in Maldives on a goodwill and training mission. They evacuated tourists and locals from Meemu atoll, “considered to be the worst hit area,” and dropped supplies to affected areas, an official said.

 

Following Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s offer of assistance to President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, one Indian Coast Guard Dornier aircraft arrived in Male on Monday and is helping with the relief efforts, the Indian High Commission in Male said on Tuesday. “Two Indian Air Force aircraft carrying food and water also arrived in Male on Sunday and are now helping with the relief effort. Three Indian Navy ships, INS Mysore, INS Aditya and INS Udaygiri, have also been dispatched by the Indian government to the Maldives,” the embassy said in a press release. “They are carrying on board relief supplies including food, water, medical equipment and doctors. They are also carrying helicopters which will be used for rescue and supply operations.

 

The first of these ships, INS Mysore has already arrived and has started operations. It is also capable of putting up a 20-bed hospital. The other two ships will arrive on Wednesday.” The governments of Japan and the United States are to give US$100,000 each as relief aid to Maldives.

 

The United Nations Development Program is to give 300,000 dollars worth of material aid while the Islamic Development has pledged financial assistance. US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Monday night telephoned Maldives’ Foreign Minister Fathulla Jameel and pledged more assistance if necessary.

 

Dr. Shaheed said that France, Turkey, and Greece have also pledged assistance to Maldives. He said that the damages received to the Maldives is estimated to be double that of Maldives’ current GDP which is US$660 million. Dr. Shaheed said that the environmentally and economically fragile Maldives, which was only recently lifted from the list of Least Developing Countries (LDCs) by the United Nations, would need a lot of financial assistance to come out of its present predicament where infrastructure of the country were badly damaged.

 

In Male, 205 tourists were housed at Majeediyya School premises on Monday until they could be flown back to their countries. By Tuesday noon, most of them returned back to their countries, and only 13 tourists remained. “The tourists here are happy with our services and those who can leave Maldives are departing,” said National Security Service’s Lieutenant Abdul Salaam who is in charge of the tourists.

 

Dhiraagu, the sole telecommunications company in Maldives, on Tuesday said that it has sent its teams to each individual island to restore telecommunications. “We are still working on it,” said Ahmed Shafiu, the Manager of Marketing of the telecoms company which is a joint venture between the Maldives’ government and Britain’s Cable and Wireless PLC.

 

Communications were disrupted as electricity was cut from the communications installations and electricity generators when salt water entered them, Dhiraagu said.

 

As of Tuesday, 20 resort islands (with a total of 1,658 beds) said they were out of operation. Kandooma, Dhonveli, One & Only Kanuhuraa, Medhufushi and Hakuraahuraa reported most damages. Meeru Island Resort is up and running as usual and now has more than a 150 guests in-house.

 

All facilities and services are operating as usual, except the Water Villas which are out of order till further notice, and a small number of Land Villas on the east side which are under repair for minor damage and will be reopened no later than the end of January 2005.

 

The new Meeru Village will open no later than Monday, January the 3rd 2005.

 

“We are making their stay as comfortable as possible and arranging for them to be flown back to their countries,” an official from Crown Tours said. Velavaru was totally uninhabitable, the official said.

 

Tourism officials said that resorts with the most damages may take two to three months for them to come into operation again. However, other resorts have reported that they could be operational in about a few weeks time.

 

Twenty-one resorts reported no damages at all. Seven resorts evacuated its tourists; they were Hakuraahuraa, Olhuveli, One & Only Kanuhuraa, Kandooma, Fun Island, Medhufushi, Velavaru, and Dhonveli. Two resorts, Kihaadhupparu and White Sand, have requested for evacuation.

 

Presently, 17,000 tourists are said to be in Maldives which have around 90 resort islands. Three tourists were confirmed dead, one among them a woman. All three were British.

 

A Sri Lankan national who was manager at Hakurahuraa resort was also confirmed dead. Resort owners said that they expected millions of dollars in damages and losses following Sunday’s tsunami. As of Monday, 126 people were admitted at the government-run Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male. Two were later released. Thirty-four people were admitted to the privately run ADK Hospital in Male, 23 of them foreign tourists. Some were later released.

 

A Cabinet meeting was held on Monday to discuss relief measures, the President’s Office said. Ministers praised the voluntary relief work of the public and discussed steps that are been taken to get foreign assistance for the relief work. President Gayoom has sent messages of condolences to the leaders of the countries which were affected by the tsunami. He expressed sympathy to the governments and to those who were directly affected in Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Malaysia.

 

As of Tuesday noon, there were 55 confirmed deaths and 69 people missing in Maldives after the tsunami hit the archipelago. Reports on Tuesday said that only three islands of Maldives’ 1190 islands remained unaffected from the tsunami. They were Neykurendhoo island in Haa Dhaalu atoll in the north, and Maamigili and Dhevvadhoo islands in South Ari atoll which is a major tourism zone.

 

Thirty-seven inhabited islands reported severe damages while 78 islands reported general damages. Forty-one islands reported that there were no damages at all. However, another 41 islands’ fates are unknown because there was no communication as of Tuesday noon.

 

Thirteen islands had evacuated its people to other islands. In Asia, there were 28,000 deaths as of Tuesday noon as the biggest humanitarian relief operation ever mounted was under way along the devastated shores of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

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