The rebuilding operation in South-east Asia is an opportunity to create an environment that allows people to survive should another tsunami strike

Leading engineer Ed McCann, an associate director of structural engineer Expedition Engineering, said that building offices, factories and houses that could withstand such a phenomenon was entirely feasible.

He said: “There is nothing particularly intimidating about building for tsunamis. It is a bigger version of a problem that is well understood.

“If waves are likely to be 3 ft deep then you design your building to resist 3 ft of water. You also need to think about the location of plant – you don’t want to put it in the basement. You also have to think about how water flows through the building and out again.”

He said that although it might be almost impossible to design a building capable of resisting a tsunami 30 m high, most of the communities in the recent disaster were destroyed by much smaller waves.

Tsunami-resistant buildings do not have to be earthquake-resistant as the waves can strike thousands of miles from an earthquake zone. Tsunamis can also be caused by other events including mudslides and volcanic eruptions.

McCann said the main problem was cost. He noted: “It is not cheap to make buildings tsunami-resistant, if you compare the cost with adobe buildings with tin roofs. But it is not so expensive if you compare them with conventional buildings.” He noted that many standard hotels built to western standards remained standing after the tsunami.

He said the answer to another tsunami was to have an early warning system and to build strategically placed tsunami-resistant dwellings to which people could flee.

He said: “For poor rural communities I would be looking at just a few tsunami-resistant buildings. You allow the tin sheds to fall over and people move onto the roofs of a small number of tsunami-resistant buildings.”