Tsunami education vital to saving lives in Myanmar schoolsJun 18, 2018
“It was on December 26, 2004, when my friends heard a loud roar from the sea. Intrigued by the sound, they ran to the beach. When they saw a massive wave rushing towards them, it was too late to escape. The wave washed them away and we never saw them again,” recalled U Kan Sein, a Junior Assistant Teacher in Labutta Township, Myanmar.
The boys did not know that a loud sound, similar to that of a train, was a sign of a tsunami. Instead of running away from the sea, they ran towards the beach. “My friends lost their lives because they weren’t aware of tsunamis and what to do when they strike,” he said.
U Kan Sain was among 616 students and teachers in Myanmar who took part in the regional tsunami awareness initiative that helps schools to prepare for natural hazards.
Supported by the Government of Japan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) facilitated tsunami education and drills in five schools in Myanmar’s most tsunami-prone areas: Labutta, Bogale and Kungyangon towsnhips in Ayeyarwaddy, and Bago in Yangon Region. These areas suffered the largest loss of lives and assets in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Tsunami preparedness activities helped the schools to design emergency procedures and evacuation plans, and provided teachers and students with knowledge and practical skills to respond and act to a tsunami disaster. The schools set up emergency communication channels with local disaster authorities and parents, prepared evacuation routes and safe zones, and conducted evacuation drills.
Being ready for tsunamis, which can attack within minutes, equips schools for any kind of natural hazards. Actively involving students in the drill preparations, such as drawing evacuation maps, helps them to be aware of the risks around their school and community and increases accountability of their actions during emergencies.
“This project was very helpful. The mapping of evacuation routes was very interesting as we investigated safe and dangerous places around our school,” said Ma May Myat Noe Yee, a Grade-8 student from Labutta. “I will share this knowledge with my family. This kind of information is very important to save people’s lives, especially in rural villages, where people don’t know much about natural disasters.”
U Kan Sein, said: “Students share information about tsunami prevention with their families. Teacher spread the lessons learnt from the drills with local authorities and communities. In doing so, our people can protect themselves against a tsunami in future.”
The drills in Myanmar were part of the “Strengthening School Preparedness for Tsunamis in the Asia-Pacific region” project, supported by the Department of Disaster Management, under the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, the Ministry of Education and Myanmar Red Cross and Seeds Asia.
It contributes to the achievement of the Sendai Framework’s targets to reduce lives lost, numbers of people affected, and economic damage from natural hazards and human-induced disasters. 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.