It’s not until you attend an event such as this that you realise how volatile our world is, how just a couple of seconds or minutes can change your world beyond recognition. It’s only when you see the devastation, the empty landscapes, piles of rubble looming in the distance and shires which remember the dead, that the reality hits you. In Christchurch we have gap filler to stop our streets from looking empty with the loss of some of our buildings, but in Sendai the gaps seem to go on forever, with only the odd damaged building standing alone. We saw two schools affected by the Tsunami, one with a badly damaged gym but no casualties as all students were evacuated to the roof, while the other school saw fourteen students killed because no decision was made in time. It was sad to see the broken windows and children’s umbrellas still outside, waiting to be used. It was frightening to learn that the difference between surviving and being killed in a Tsunami can depend on what side of the street you hp difference between life and death depends on what side of street you were on or how fast you were able to run. It changed the tone of the trip and reminded us why we were here. The point of this forum is to learn from past disasters and help our communities prepare for the future, building resilience and helping to look beyond the disaster.
We started off the third day of the forum with several workshops and presentations, learning the importance of disaster planning within your family and community and trauma care for victims of natural disasters. It was interesting to hear about the trauma caused from the experiences from Fukushima, about children who were stigmatized from the accident and how families were affected and so on. Hearing personal experiences of the disasters from countries such as Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and Indonesia showed the how communities can be affected by disasters. It was also inspiring to hear their stories and what they have done, the research into reducing the risk of flooding in certain areas, educating young mothers on how they can protect their families and introducing warning signals into community homes.
Action plans are already starting to be developed. Three of the NZ Delegates are working on a film and photo expedition, aimed at raising awareness about natural disasters, the risk, and prevention and how people are affected. Benazir is working on an action plan to work with the deaf youth of Christchurch as well as working with Chloe to develop a blog where people can share their experiences form the Christchurch earthquakes. The forum is going well, and is going too fast, it’s hard to believe that on Monday we will fly back to New Zealand. Tomorrow we will present our action plans to numerous community leaders, so tonight we will be up late making them look stunning.