Bakhodir Burkhanov: Launch of Tsunami Drill for the Cluster 1 Schools along the Laucala Bay and Nasese Area, Fiji

Feb 28, 2018

(Photo: UNDP/Merana Kitione)

Hon. Inia Seruiratu, Minister of Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development, National Disaster Management and Meteorological Services

Mr. Tsuguyoshi Hada, Charge d’Affaires, Embassy of Japan

Invited guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Ni sa bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all!

It gives me great pleasure to be part of this launch today on behalf of United Nations Development Programme.

At the outset, I would like to acknowledge the financial support from the Government of Japan to UNDP to implement this project. Learning from their own experiences of the devastating impact of tsunamis, the Government of Japan has demonstrated its commitment to reducing the loss of lives of school children in high tsunami risk areas through better awareness and preparedness. Through UNDP’s presence in Asia and the Pacific region, this regional project is being implemented in 18 countries, including Fiji.

Honourable Minister, I would also like to acknowledge the Fiji Government’s leadership in conducting today’s drills. We have partnered with the National Disaster Management Office, Ministry of Education, Fiji Police and Military Forces, Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources, other government departments and statutory bodies in a truly whole-of-government effort in coordinating and conducting five simultaneous drills today. The drills would not have been possible without the active engagement of the school principals, teachers and students, who will be the main actors of today’s events. This has been a great partnership and UNDP looks forward to building on this high-impact initiative.

One cannot overemphasize the importance of being prepared in our region. The Asia Pacific region is the most disaster-prone in the world accounting for nearly half of disasters occuring globally. More than 70% of all tsunamis ever recorded took place in the Pacific Ocean and its marginal seas. Tsunamis have devastating impacts as they wipe out homes, schools, hospitals and bridges, along with decades of economic gains.

The potential threat of tsunamis in Fiji is considerable. In 2017, 6 tsunami warning messages were issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, and 4 messages were issued within 2 months so far this year. While fortunately these warnings were no threats to Fiji, knowing how to respond to these messages is important.

In Japan, every school child knows what to do in the event of a tsunami warning. And when you teach the children, they teach everyone else. To date, over 14,000 students, teachers and members of school administration in 44 schools in 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region have practiced safe evacuation drills under this project. We are proud that today in Fiji, five schools in Suva – two secondary and three primary – that are situated in tsunami-prone areas will conduct drills. Over 3,500 students – girls and boys – are expected to take part along with 150 teachers and staff.

Conducting a drill helps test preparedness plans and map safe evacuation routes. This requires preparation – having the knowledge of surroundings and evacuation areas, recognizing a tsunami warning, knowing what you need to do and how to stay safe. As our partnership with government agencies has shown, these efforts go beyond the schools themselves. Today’s drills will test the schools’ Disaster Plans and Emergency Evacuation Plans with the aim of improving them for future drills. This experience will also inform future divisional and national tsunami drills as well as test the national tsunami evacuation plan. 

We are also excited to share that unique to Fiji, we are using the GeoBingan mobile app – which I have been informed is your “baby”, Honorable Minister. The app allows registered users to interface with the drills in real time. Registered users – even those outside Fiji – can view, monitor and evaluate the drills as they happen. Our colleagues from UNDP offices in Bangkok and Tokyo and officials from the Government of Japan will be following the drills virtually. This is a great opportunity to test coordination systems and review improvements based on the app reports. Thank you Minister and NDMO for your leadership and innovation. 

Today’s drills complement UNDP’s ongoing support to the Pacific Island Countries to strengthen their resilience and risk-proof their development efforts. We therefore look forward to working closely with all partners in helping this project deliver its intended development benefits to partner institutions and island communities on the ground.

Vinaka vakalevu!

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