By Yuki Matsuoka
This year’s High School Students Summit for World Tsunami Awareness Day attracted 379 students from 48 countries to Japan, a country renowned for its disaster risk management and expertise on tsunami risk.
The Summit brought together 244 overseas students and 135 students from Japan in the location where on November 5, 1854, a local farmer Hamaguchi Goryo, famously set fire to his rice sheaves – Inamura no Hi - as a warning to his fellow villagers that a tsunami was coming and so saved many lives.
The students adopted the “Inamura no Hi Declaration” in Wakayama city in western Japan on October 31 and November 1, while memories were still fresh of the latest tsunami to strike Indonesia claiming over 2,000 lives and leaving thousands homeless.
The Declaration outlines the importance of protecting lives, building back better and improving preparedness for future disasters. They vowed to carry forward the spirit of Hamaguchi Goryo and implement lessons learned from the Summit to save lives in their home countries.
Wakayaama Governor Mr. Yoshinobu Nisaka, told the Summit press conference: “At the workshops, they thought about what each of them could do for disaster risk reduction based on what they have learned. I would like them to become adults like Goryo Hamaguchi, who can save lives and lead others.”
Summit co-chair, Ms. Mitsuho Naki (17) who has attended all three Summits to date, was moved to hear from another participant who lost family in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. She was impressed by his “desire to contribute to the awareness raising of tsunamis by widely sharing the personal experience.”
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Ms. Mami Mizutori, told the students: “Disaster risk reduction is an area that is relevant to any profession. I hope that, whatever profession the students may hold in the future, they will prioritize and lead actions for disaster risk reduction as ambassadors for disaster risk reduction.’
In a video message, Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Shinzo Abe, said: “I hope that all of you inherit this spirit of the Goryo Hamaguchi and be active in the world as the next leaders to prevent disasters. I hope this summit will be the guidance for many lives to be saved over generations.”
“This year we experienced a number of large disasters around the world, including the tsunami on 28 September in Indonesia. It is important to continue our concerted efforts and learn from each other. The power of young people will reduce disaster risks, save lives and will create the future together”, said Mr. Toshihiro Nikai, Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan.
Students came from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Comoros, Cook Islands, Denmark, Fiji, Greece, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall, Mexico, Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, Vanuatu, Venezuela and Viet Nam.
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