Evacuation drills help schools in Myanmar be ready for natural hazards
The most tsunami-prone areas in Myanmar, Labutta and Ngaputaw townships, are preparing their schools for natural disasters. More than 170 students learnt about tsunami warning signs, mapped hazard zones and safe areas around their schools, got practical first-aid skills and practiced safe evacuation.
Being ready for tsunamis helps schools to be prepared for many other natural hazards, as it requires schools to design emergency procedures and evacuation plans. It allows to train both teachers and students to act during disasters and set up emergency communication channels with local disaster authorities and parents.
Located on one of the two main earthquake belts in the world, the Sagaing Fault, Myanmar is prone to high-intensity earthquakes. This could trigger a tsunami along Myanmar’s 2,200 kilometers long coastline.
Historically, tsunamis are rare in Myanmar, but the damage has been drastic. As the population doesn’t expect tsunamis, even relatively small flood waves can lead to severe damage and high economic losses.
The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami took lives of 60 people, damaged 36 villages and left 300,000 people in need of shelter, causing Myanmar US$ 500 million in losses.
The 2008 tragedy of Cyclone Nargis claimed nearly 200,000 lives and cost the country US$ 4 billion. More than 4,000 schools were damaged, many students lost their lives because they stayed in the school buildings and didn’t know about the shelters around the school.
Myanmar is one of 18 countries to join the regional project “Strengthening Schools Preparedness for Tsunamis in the Asia-Pacific region” that prepares schools for natural hazards and raises awareness among students to recognize and respond to earthquake and tsunami warning. The project is piloted in five schools in high tsunami risk areas, facilitated by UNDP and supported by the Government of Japan.
“I am grateful that with the support from the Government of Japan, school children in Myanmar have joined others across the Asia Pacific region in learning how to remain safe during tsunamis,” said Peter Batchelor, UNDP Country Director in Myanmar.
The project contributes to the achievement of the Sendai Framework’s targets to reduce lives lost, numbers of people affected, and economic damage from natural and human-induced hazards. It also aims to achieve UNDP’s goal to help vulnerable regions to adapt to climate change by integrating disaster risk measures into national strategies.