The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, has offered UNESCO’s support to the countries devastated by the earthquake off the coast of Sumatra and the ensuing tsunami. Mr Matsuura said that "UNESCO stands ready" to assist the national authorities within its fields of competence and "give whatever support it can to the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator’s efforts."
Several sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List are located in the afflicted region. UNESCO, along with experts from the World Heritage community and local authorities, is mobilizing all efforts to evaluate damage to these sites. Information is currently being collected and missions will be dispatched in coordination with the national authorities as soon as possible to decide on appropriate action. Emergency assistance will also be available through the World Heritage Fund to help the affected countries establish detailed damage assessments and rehabilitation plans.
The following World Heritage sites are located in the affected areas:
The Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications in Sri Lanka: the town has been flooded and preliminary reports indicate that there has been important damage, notably affecting underwater heritage in the ancient harbour. The Fort itself has been reported intact.
The Ujung Kulon National Park and Tropical Rainforest of Sumatra , both in Indonesia: preliminary information indicates that conservation structures in the National Park of Gunung Leuser, part of the Tropical Rainforest of Sumatra, have been damaged.
While humanitarian assistance to the victims of this disaster remains the absolute priority, the World Heritage Centre and its partners are committed to take all steps to restore the World Heritage properties and the facilities of heritage agencies in the region. It is crucial to include heritage in the reconstruction efforts, as heritage contributes to communities’ sense of identity and continuity and is a vital resource for future sustainable development in this region.
Further information will be provided as it becomes available.