Policymakers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries are now able to get updates on regional disasters with the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) in Jakarta.

According to AHA Centre executive director Said Faisal, AHA Centre gathers detailed information from hazard monitoring and disaster warning agencies in all 10 member countries on events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, landslides and others and send the information promptly and accurately to each country.

Said went on to say that the information would be distributed through emails and text messages, and would only be made available to ASEAN officials and authorities in each member country.

He added that based on the information, the officials would be able to make decisions in response to disasters, including in terms of assistance. “However, the government of the affected country is the only authority that can issue an assistance request,” he said.

In Indonesia , the AHA Centre coordinates with various agencies, such as the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) and Assessment and Application of Technology Agency (BPPT).

It monitored developments closely during the Apr. 11 earthquakes in Aceh.

According to ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN needs infrastructure like this centre because disaster management has become an important agenda within the association.

ASEAN member countries made an agreement six months after the 2004 earthquakes and tsunami to establish ASEAN’s own disaster information centre.

Each member country was obliged to contribute 30,000 USD per year for the centre’s operations.
Japan provided assistance in infrastructure, while the US installed the Disaster Monitoring and Response System with the help of the Pacific Disaster Centre (PDC), a nonprofit program under the University of Hawaii.-VNA