(From left) Mr. Toshihiro Nikai, Chairman of the General Council of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party and Mr. Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General, at the launch of World Tsunami Awareness Day which will take place on November 5
By Huw Beynon
NEW YORK, 31 March, 2016 - An earthquake off the coast of south-west Japan on 5 November, 1854, triggered a large tsunami that left 15,000 homes either damaged or completely destroyed.
A local farmer, Hamaguchi Goryo, noticed the receding waters and immediately recognised this tell-tale sign of tsunami risk. He set fire to his entire year’s harvest of rice as a warning signal and guided his fellow villagers to higher ground. This year the story of Hamaguchi Goryo will be immortalised in World Tsunami Awareness Day for the first time.
The commemoration will be held annually on 5 November to raise public understanding of the threat posed by tsunamis and, by extension, other natural and man-made hazards. Tsunamis are relatively rare but once they occur they have the potential to cause enormous loss of life and large economic losses including damage to critical infrastructure as was the case in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which claimed over 227,000 lives and displaced millions of people.
In a message on March 11, the 5th anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami which claimed some 19,000 lives, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, noted that the disaster “helped shape the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which was adopted at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction a year ago. The Framework extends the remit of disaster risk management to include both man-made and natural hazards, as well as related environmental, technological and biological hazards and risks.”
To promote World Tsunami Awareness Day and the first anniversary of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Permanent Mission of Japan in New York hosted a panel discussion and reception at United Nations Headquarters. The event was supported by UNISDR.
World Tsunami Awareness Day was first proposed by Mr. Toshihiro Nikai, Chairman of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party’s General Council. His participation at the event on Tuesday signalled high level political commitment to disaster risk reduction. His announcement of Japan’s commitment to support an International High School Summit on Tsunami Awareness generated a positive response form the countries around the room. Small Island Developing States and countries from Asia, the Americas and Africa described how World Tsunami Day will support their efforts to implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Addressing Ambassadors at the reception that followed, Mr. Jan Eliasson, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, thanked the Government of Japan for supporting World Tsunami Awareness Day and said: “We must now continue the work that started in Sendai. Preparations are now under way for the World Humanitarian Summit in May. This is a critically important opportunity for world leaders to come together and address humanitarian assistance — both for man-made and natural disasters.
“As we carry this work forward, we are building on the solid foundation of the Sendai Framework and all the important agreements reached last year. Above all, we are carrying out these plans to see real results so that the world can live up to our promise to leave no one behind.
“In closing, I wish to reiterate the Secretary-General’s words: ‘Sustainability starts in Sendai.’ Let us always remember this prime point as we advance towards a more sustainable future where all people can live in dignity, safety and peace.”
The Sendai Framework reaffirms the importance of integrating disaster risk reduction, sustainable development, and climate change adaptation. It covers man-made and natural hazards and associated technological, environmental and biological hazards. The Sendai Framework also prioritises better preparedness and building back better in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
The World Tsunami Awareness Day will be a key contribution to implementing the Sendai Framework, which the Permanent Representative of Philippines, Ms. Lourdes O. Yparraguirre, noted, puts people and communities at the centre of disaster risk reduction.