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Kyrgyz Republic

Disaster risk and school infrastructure: What we do and do not know

Sameh Wahba's picture
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Credit: Tracy Ben/ Shutterstock

“At 14:28:04 on May 12, 2008, an 8.0 earthquake struck suddenly, shaking the earth, with mountains and rivers shifted, devastated, and parted forever….” This was how China’s official report read, when describing the catastrophic consequences of the Sichuan earthquake, which left 5,335 students dead or missing.
 
Just two years ago, in Nepal, on April 25, 2015, due to a Mw 7.8 earthquake, 6,700 school buildings collapsed or were affected beyond repair. Fortunately, it occurred on Saturday—a holiday in Nepal—otherwise the human toll could have been as high as that of the Sichuan disaster, or even worse. Similarly, in other parts of the world—Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines, Haiti, Ecuador, and most recently Mexico—schools suffered from the impact of natural hazards. 
 
Why have schools collapsed?

災害への備え:先人のメッセージが伝えることは?

Ko Takeuchi's picture
Also available in: English
Also available in: Russian
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
「奇跡の一本松」:2011年の大津波に耐えた樹齢250年といわれる松の木。19,000 人の犠牲者を追悼するモニュメントとして保存されている。 (写真:ウィキペディア・コモンズ)
災害リスク管理というと、地域社会が将来起こりうる災害リスクに備えるための最先端技術に目を向けがちである。そうした先端技術はもちろん重要であるが先人たちが残した洞察力あふれるメッセージもまた災害を未然に防ぐための大いなる手助けとなることに私は着目したい。

先人の知恵は、人々を災害から守る方法(既存リスクの低減)と、人々を災害による被害から遠ざける方法(新規リスクの回避)を教えてくれている。私はつい最近、アルメニア共和国、キルギス共和国、タジキスタン共和国の政府代表団とともに日本を訪れた。災害リスク管理に焦点を当てた視察を行い、災害の経験を明確な教訓として次世代へ受け継いでいく日本の文化を学ぶためである。

Are we listening to our ancestors’ warnings?

Ko Takeuchi's picture
Also available in: 日本語
Also available in: Russian
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
The “miracle pine,” a 250-year-old tree that survived the 2011 tsunami in Japan, has been preserved as a memorial to the 19,000 victims of the disaster. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

In disaster risk management, we often pay close attention to the latest technological boosts to better understand risks and help communities prepare for the next disaster. While such efforts are commendable, I noticed that insightful messages from our ancestors can also help us better anticipate tomorrow’s disaster risks.

Such messages teach us how to keep hazards away from people (reducing existing risks) as well as how to keep people away from hazards (avoid creating new risks). On my latest trip to Japan, we hosted government officials from Armenia, Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan as part of an experts’ visit focusing on disaster risk management, acting on Japan’s rich culture of passing on such decisive messages to future generations.