Yokohama shows the way to disaster preparedness

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Journalists from the Pacific and the Caribbean, along with their program coordinator from the US pose for a photo following a flood demonstration at the Yokohama Disaster Risk Reduction Learning Centre. Photo: Floyd K. Takeuchi

By OFANI EREMAE

AS global temperatures continue to rise, weather experts have warned of more intense cyclones, flooding, and rising sea levels.

The Pacific region, they say, is on the frontline of climate change. So, the future of the region’s inhabitants is at stake.

Already, we have seen an increase of Category 5 hurricanes, as well as flash-flooding, that have terrorized communities across the region, and made life harder for them.

The number one question worth asking is, are we prepared to face this disaster and minimize the loss of lives?

In Solomon Islands, the 2014 devastating flash-flood that ripped through capital Honiara is a stark reminder of our lack of preparedness.

It was the worst and most severe flooding (and certainly not the last) to have hit the country. At least 21 people lost their lives, while hundreds were left homeless.

Simply, no one expected the flooding to be so intense and that families living on the banks of Mataniko River, and who have lost loved ones, did not prepare for it.

In fact, our lack of disaster-preparedness is our biggest failure in the face of rising global temperatures.

Training people to prepare and take care of themselves is all that is needed to save lives during a disaster.

And no one seems to do this better than the local government of Yokohama City in Japan, where I visited the other week.

I am part of a group of senior journalists from the Pacific and the Caribbean on a 10-day media fellowship sponsored by the Association for Promotion of International Cooperation (APIC) in partnership with the Foreign Press Centre of Japan.

When we called into Yokohama, a city of more than 3.7 million people, staff of the Yokohama Disaster Risk Reduction Learning Center (https://bo-sai.city.yokohama.lg.jp/en/ ) were eagerly waiting to demonstrate the work they are doing preparing residents of the city for any disasters.

“Preparation is everything if we are to save lives in times of disasters,” says Hiroshi Mizutani, Manager of Regional Disaster Prevention Division, Crisis Management Office of the City of Yokohama.

At the centre, residents, school children, and people with disabilities have all been given the opportunity to take part in disaster preparedness exercises designed to help people understand what to do during flooding, cyclones or earthquakes.

Besides, the city has also established 459 evacuation centres, located at selected schools that can be used in times of disasters.

The Yokohama Disaster Reduction Centre is opened to school-age children to learn disaster preparedness technics at a younger age.
 

Mizutani said it is important that people take responsibility for their own evacuation and safety during disasters. This is why the demonstrations and exercises the centre provide are important, he added.

The Pacific, in particular the Solomons, where disaster preparedness is terribly lacking, has a lot to learn from the Yokohama model.

This is a Japanese city that is prepared to share their experience with the Pacific and others out there.

Remember, global temperatures are rising. Floods and cyclones are now more frequent than ever before. The sea level keeps rising and is eating away our shorelines.

What are we waiting for?

We cannot wait for another flash-flood or a category 5 cyclone before we act. The worst is yet to come.

Solomon Islanders need to prepare now!

 


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