Japan, UNDP lead tsunami drill in low-lying communities in General Luna, Siargao

March 29, 2023

Students and residents participate in a tsunami drill in General Luna, Siargao Island

Siargao Island, Philippines – A tsunami drill was organized in the low-lying barangays of General Luna, Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte Province as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Philippines and the Government of Japan continue to work together in building school-based disaster-preparedness and resilience.

Over 500 children and residents, including the elderly, from four schools and communities in Barangay Suyangan and La Januza participated in the drill which was held at the Suyangan National High School. The high school, located on the island’s highest point, is identified as the evacuation site.

In the past years, we participated in the quarterly earthquake drill. But this is the first time that we did a tsunami drill. Aside from going outside the classroom, we identified the highest point in our community where students can take cover in case there is a tsunami or storm surge,” said Ms. Diosdado Bernales, officer-in-charge of Suyangan Elementary School. The elementary school is prone to storm surges, being situated along the shoreline of La Januza Island. The school has three main structures where classes are being held for 120 schoolchildren. Several classrooms are yet to be repaired from the damage they sustained during the onslaught of Super Typhoon Rai (Odette).

Suyangan Elementary School is prone to storm surges, being situated along the shoreline of La Januza Island

After the drill, a disaster preparedness orientation was held among the barangay leaders and students of Suyangan Elementary School and National High School. It emphasized a more complex scenario, following minimum health and safety protocols when a tsunami or even a storm surge happens during the pandemic. 

The Philippines is among the most vulnerable countries in the world owing to its location within the Pacific Ring of Fire. Earthquakes and volcanic activities are frequent along this area, and ground movement can eventually trigger a tsunami. 

While there is no recorded tsunami incident in the country in recent years, low-lying coastal communities have experienced storm surges as high as seven meters. The drill in the islands of General Luna is the third phase of the regional partnership between UNDP Philippines and the Government of Japan in conducting disaster preparedness in coastal areas of the Philippines since 2018. In previous years, the initiative covered 172 schools in the provinces of Eastern Samar, Leyte, and Surigao del Norte. In Del Carmen, Siargao, the local government said that the tsunami drill conducted in 2019 helped many residents in the early evacuation when Super Typhoon Rai made landfall in December 2021.




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