Students learn disaster preparedness in Japan

Five St Mary’s College students travelled with their teacher to celebrate the World Youth Tsunami Awareness Day in Osaka, Japan. 

Etevise Fonoti, Janola Tofilau, Melesete Ioane, Quenjule Slaven and Charla Wendt accompanied their teacher Annie Mauga-Afoa to Japan, to participate in a high school summit, which attracted 400 students from around the world.

They participated in workshops, lectures and activities on disaster reduction, discussed ways to protect people’s lives from disasters and shared their experiences on the 2009 tsunami that struck Samoa.

Charla Wendt, speaking on behalf of the girls on the drills they participated in, said they learnt a lot about Japan in terms of disaster preparedness.  

“Experiencing the intense drills that citizens go through was really intense. We’d be on a train that stops every now and then, and we would have to get off and suddenly sprint up the hills.

“It taught us the difference between Samoa and Japan in terms of avoiding and preventing severe damage caused by natural disasters.

“In Samoa we don’t really have drills, but in Japan, they really emphasize that especially in the areas that are vulnerable to natural disasters,” she said.

Ms Wendt said one particular lecture during the summit caught their attention.

 “This one professor emphasised that in order to save other people; you would have to save yourself first,” she said.

“In Japan they train their citizens to just evacuate immediately without looking for their relatives first to increase the chances of survival.”  

Quenjule Slaven said drills for natural disasters should never be taken lightly and everyone should be prepared at all times.

“We want to put up awareness programmes and talk to people about it, get communities involved and make sure that everyone is aware of these things,” Ms Slaven said.

And they have already begun their action plan: Ms Wendt also spoke about their first step from last Saturday.

“Our teacher Ms Mauga took a few of our Year 13s to town picking up rubbish to prevent drainage blocks to minimize the effects of flooding.”

The women want to start with these small steps, until they are ready to run evacuation drills and the like, said Ms Wendt.

The seven-day trip was funded through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and all the expenses were covered by the Japanese government.

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