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Creating tsunami evacuation routes in Indonesia • The huge tsunami waves triggered by a 9.15 magnitude on 26 December 2004, claimed the lives of around half the 12,000 inhabitants of PuloBreuh, one of a group of islands floating just off the tip of Aceh in Indonesia. But in UleePaya, a small village of 47 households nestling at the foot of green wooded slopes near the sea, some people survived by fleeing to higher ground. • “This road already existed before the disaster and it was the idea of the villagers to use it for a tsunami evacuation route. Many came up here to escape the tsunami, and they use it often because they have plantations up on the hill,” explains 25-year-old British Red Cross volunteer Muhammad, standing on the concrete path, which has a smooth section on one side and steps on the other.
With a grant from the British Red Cross, the villagers widened the existing road and extended it up through the trees. It ends in a clearing around 100 meters above sea level where people can gather in the event of earthquakes that might trigger a tsunami, storm surges or high tides.
Sighs • Signs in the village, displaying a big wave and an arrow, clearly point the way to the evacuation route. They tell people to head for higher ground if the sea level drops after an earthquake – a sign that a tsunami may be on its way. • The community has also worked out plans to help less physically able members of the community, including older people, children and pregnant women, climb to higher ground. • The Red Cross supported two other villages on the other island, Seurapong and Gugop, to develop similar evacuation routes under a programme to develop basic infrastructure that can make communities safer in disasters.