Tsunami Files #5: Preparing for the Worst

Billboards like this one in Vembar show the houses and businesses in the village and also contain the emergency plan.

After the 2004 tsunami, many survivors in southern India were scared to return to homes and jobs near the Indian Ocean.  Helping survivors cope with their trauma and fears is an important part of relief work after a disaster, and the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund has been engaging in that work with its partner CASA (Churches’ Auxiliary for Social Action) in India.

After the tsunami, PWRDF partnered with Presbyterian World Service and Development, the United Church of Canada, and the Mennonite Central Committee in a coalition called PUMA to rebuild homes and livelihoods in 12 villages in southern India with CASA.  This work was carried out with the participation of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA.)  Part of the work included the creation of Disaster Mitigation Task Forces (DMTFs) in each of the villages.
The DMTFs have been working since 2004 to prepare everyone in the villages in case another tsunami strikes.  In addition to conducting mock tsunami drills, they have created billboards like the one shown above at the entrance to every village.

These billboards show Vulnerability Maps for the villages.  Every household and business is recorded on the map, along with all the routes that a tsunami wave would be likely to take in moving inland (areas of low land, water ways, etc).  In addition, the village’s emergency plan is recorded on the billboard.  All of this serves to ensure that every person in the village knows what to do in the case that another tsunami occurs.

The Vulnerability Map provides peace of mind as well as security for the people who live in Vembar and the other villages supported by PWRDF and CASA.  The DMTFs have helped returning survivors to get back to their lives and livelihoods, overcoming the fears that marked their lives in the days immediately following the 2004 tsunami.

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