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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 January, 2005, 12:13 GMT
Maldives 'set back by 20 years'
Destroyed homes on Huraa island in the Maldives
Some islands were completely destroyed
The impact of the recent tsunami on the Maldives has set back development by two decades, the government has said.

Chief government spokesman Ahmed Shaheed said that while the archipelago was spared huge loss of life, the land itself was severely damaged.

Of the country's 199 inhabited islands, 53 had suffered severe damage, while about 20 were "totally destroyed".

The official death toll on the islands stand at 82 people, while a further 26 people are unaccounted for.

More than 12,500 people were displaced.

Across the region, at least 150,000 people are thought to have died.

Infrastructure gone

"The tsunami had within a few minutes set the country back by at least two decades as far as socio-economic development is concerned," Mr Shaheed said.

A third of the country's 300,000 population were severely affected, he said.

Maldives Planning Minister Hamdoon Hameed estimated the total cost of the damage at $4.8bn.

Fourteen islands were completely evacuated, 79 islands do not have safe drinking water, 26 islands have no electricity, 24 islands have no telephones and four islands have no communication facilities.

Map of the Maldives

Schools, clinics and pharmacies have been destroyed, on some 50 islands.

"In some islands, there is not a single structure standing," Mr Shaheed said.

Fishing and tourism, both mainstays of the local economy, have been severely disrupted.

Nineteen of the country's 87 luxury resorts were severely damaged and will be closed for many months.

"The tourist arrival figures have already halved in what would effectively have been the peak season," he said.

Crops have also been lost due to salt-water contamination.

Although none of the islands extends more than 1.8m (6ft) above sea level, the Maldives was spared much of the destructive impact of the Indian Ocean tsunami because of the shallow waters along its coastline.

With no land mass for the swell of water to build up against - as it did in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka - the waves did not reach more than 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) in height.


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