Eleven years after deadly tsunami, Simbo Island in the Solomons welcomes evacuation drills in schools

Apr 20, 2018

Photo: Yuko Morikawa, Embassy of Japan in Solomon Islands
Photo: Yuko Morikawa, Embassy of Japan in Solomon Islands
Photo: Yuko Morikawa, Embassy of Japan in Solomon Islands
Photo: Yuko Morikawa, Embassy of Japan in Solomon Islands

Eleven years after a local tsunami, caused by an 8.1 magnitude earthquake, devastated Simbo Island in the Western Province, an evacuation drill was conducted in the schools to test their tsunami preparedness.

A total of 370 school children, 23 teachers and community observers benefited from the drill with improved tsunami preparedness and a new evacuation route. New hazard maps and tsunami signage were developed to help islanders to locate safe areas.

Three schools, Kalaro Primary, Nusa Primary and Lengana Primary and Community High Schools conducted the drills as part of the regional “Strengthening School Preparedness for Tsunamis in the Asia-Pacific region” project. The main objective of the project is to mitigate the impact of tsunamis by enhancing school preparedness in high risk communities in the Asia-Pacific region. It will benefit school children in 90 tsunami prone schools in 18 countries.

UNDP_Solomons_drill10Photo: Yuko Morikawa, Embassy of Japan in Solomon Islands

Funded by the Government of Japan, the project is implemented by the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), the Solomon Islands Meteorological Services (SIMS) and the Western Province Education Authority in a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Ms. Yuko Morikawa, an Advisor from the Embassy of Japan in the Solomon Islands said that the Government of Japan is pleased to see that the Solomon Islands' Government and UNDP have successfully implemented tsunami evacuation drills in three schools in Simbo Island.

“These drills have contributed to raising awareness on the importance of disaster-preparedness among the people of the Solomon Islands,” said Yuko Morikawa, Embassy of Japan.

UNDP_Solomons_drill13Photo: Yuko Morikawa, Embassy of Japan in Solomon Islands

In addition to the school drills, a training was conducted by the staff of NDMO and SIMS to equip school prefects and class captains, teachers and community members with basic knowledge on tsunamis and evacuations. NDMO provided guidance for developing schools' disaster response plans and worked with partners to identify reliable evacuation routes and safe zones.  

According to Mr Danny Ruel, an NDMO Provincial Disaster Officer in Western province, the past tsunami experience instilled a lot of fear in the island community.

“It is through the awareness and regular drills how schools and communities can control and minimize their fear and panic, which can disrupt orderly and timely evacuation and cause injuries or even casualties,” said Danny Ruel.

Kalaro Primary School teacher Ms. Durie Hickie was affected by the 2007 tsunami. According to her, the project has helped the schools to improve the speed and safety of their evacuation practices.

UNDP_Solomons_drill14Photo: UNDP Solomon Islands

A orderly evacuation, safe escape routes and well-defined safe zones will help schools to minimize possible accidents and injuries. During the past emergencies, the pupils and teachers were not organized and stayed in dangerous areas,” said Durie Hickie.

She also emphasized the importance of including children with special needs in the evacuation drills to ensure that the emergency plans are suitable for all students.

Simbo schools are among five schools in the Western Province to be part of the regional project. In total, 770 students have participated in the drills across the Solomon Islands.

“The ongoing quarterly drills in schools will ensure that younger generations are prepared for a future tsunami,” said Ms. Deltina Solomon, a Programme Associate, UNDP. “Natural disasters like tsunamis cannot be prevented. It is in our best interest to work together to be prepared and have the knowledge to save lives."

The regional 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.

UNDP_Solomons_drill5Photo: Yuko Morikawa, Embassy of Japan in Solomon Islands

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