How can small islands survive a tsunami?

The Pacific youth ambassadors on the eve of departure for the High School Students Islands Summit in Okinawa, Japan
 
By Andrew McElroy

SUVA, 6 November 2017 – Thirty youth ambassadors from five Pacific countries will tomorrow share their ideas on building tsunami resilience with young people from around the world.

The Pacific youngsters will join hundreds of students from Japan and 20 other countries for the High School Students Islands Summit, in Okinawa, to mark the 2017 World Tsunami Awareness Day.

Sixteen-year-old Piulani Tumua (pictured 2nd right), one of the Pacific youth ambassadors, is from Fetuvalu Secondary School, Tuvalu, a tiny atoll of 26 square kilometres with a total population of 11,000.

“I am so pleased to be going to Okinawa to share ideas on tsunami preparedness with students from so many countries. No part of our country is more than 3 metres above sea level. We need to act quickly to change attitudes amongst the whole community as tsunamis do not discriminate when they come ashore,” she said.

Piulani and her five fellow Fetuvalu School students have already drawn up plans to take the lead in building tsunami resilience and look forward to being armed with even more ideas on their return from Japan.

“We are looking to establish tsunami awareness clubs at our school and then at other schools. We also intend to reach out to former students as well as parents,” she said.

The Principal of Fetuvalu Secondary School, Mr. Penehuro Hauma (pictured 2nd left) said: “In Tuvalu we treat the risk of tsunami too lightly. It is great to see the students have this opportunity to travel to Japan and learn more about tsunamis. They are the ones who can change their own mindsets quicker as well as those of older people in the community.”

The students of King George V and Elaine Bernacchi School in Kirabati will make a presentation in Okinawa entitled: ‘Is there a chance against a tsunami on a flat island?’ They will then share their ideas of tsunami resilience before inviting input from students from other countries.

The students of Ratu Kadavulevu School, in Fiji, have already conducted tsunami exposure assessments on nearby communities such as Lodoni, which sits 400 metres from the coast and has a population of 300.

The students of Nauru Secondary School will reflect on the experience in the 1980s when the country – 24 square kilometres with a total population of 18,000 – suffered devastating King Tides.

Meanwhile, the students from Vanuatu Central School will recall the 12-metre high tsunami of 1878 and the seven tsunamis since as they seek to develop simple but hard-hitting posters to emphasize the importance of preparedness.

The Pacific youth ambassadors were bid farewell by the Japanese Ambassador to Fiji, H.E. Masahiro Omura at a special World Tsunami Awareness event in his official residence.

The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction took place in 2015 The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction took place in 2015.
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