Observing the International Day for Disaster Reduction (IDDR), the department of disaster management (DDM) on October 13 sensitised students of five schools in Phuentsholing on disaster reduction.

With the theme “home safe home” the disaster management team and Phuentsholing thromde officials highlighted various topics about disaster, hazards, and preparedness.

A senior program officer with DDM, Jigme Chogyal highlighted the hazard and vulnerability profile of the country. Earthquake, Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF), fire, and flood were some of the disasters underlined.

“Bhutan, especially, southern and eastern part is prone to earthquake,” he said. “Although we do not have our own seismic map, we are on the red zone, as per the Indian seismic map.”

The DDM official said that the country lost 12 lives and 39 were injured in the 2009 earthquake when the epicenter was at Narang in Mongar. Properties and infrastructures worth Nu 2,501 million (M) were lost.

In 2011, when the epicenter was in Sikkim, India, Bhutan suffered a loss of Nu 1,197M and lost a life.

The programme officer said that DDM chose school as a platform to observe IDDR, to create awareness among vulnerable groups, mostly students.

“Children are more vulnerable,” he said, adding that students also had better reach and could spread the news to their families and friends.

About the level of country’s preparedness, Jigme Chogyal said that Bhutan is “far better than the neighbouring countries” in terms of proper policies.

“For preparedness, we have trained people for search and rescue,” he said, adding that all 20 dzongkhags and some drungkhags have disaster preparedness equipment.

DDM officials said that the theme “home safe home” was to highlight that if disaster was discussed and contained at home—there would not be need to worry at the national level.

Tshering Lhamo, an arts student from Norbu Academy in Phuentsholing said that she understood the risks of disasters. “We have to be always alert,” she said.

Another student from Phuentsholing middle secondary school, Namgay Wangmo said people should not panic during an earthquake. “We have to act smart,” she said.

Namgay Wangmo said that her school conducts mock drills for earthquake hazards every year.

Meanwhile, thromde officials also presented highlights of ongoing projects on mitigation of flood and landslides, as the town is more prone to these disasters. Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said that people must be mindful that they are living in disaster-prone area.

“Phuentsholing thromde has also established a thromde disaster management contingency plan and initiated various disaster risk management activities through the support from NAPA II,” thrompon said.

Uttar Kumar Rai said that disaster risk management is an inseparable part of governance and sustainable development. “It is a collective responsibility,” he said.

IDDR was supported and funded by the Save the Children, European Union Humanitarian Aid, and the government.

Rajesh Rai |  Phuentsholing