Tsunami, Flooding, Storm Surges kill 635 across Asia in October

The International Life Saving Federation is closing monitoring a series of significant disaster events that have occurred across Asia in the past month.

Flooding and storm surges across East Asia, the impact of Typhoon Megi and a Tsunami off the coast of Indonesia are estimated to have claimed 635 lives in October alone.

Flooding in central Vietnam caused by very heavy rain between October 15 and 21 has claimed the lives of an estimated 75 people, with the Vietnam Red Cross making an emergency appeal for over $1 million USD to help the victims.

Flooding and storm surges across the Philippines as a result of Typhoon Megi, which made landfall on October 18, has killed at least 31 people with 42 people injured and four people reported missing. It is estimated Megi has affected two million people.

In China on October 12, more than 120,000 people have been evacuated as a result of severe flooding from torrential rain in Hainan province which has left four people dead. Nearly 3900 Chinese have been killed or left missing this year in flood related incidents, according to official figures.

In Myanmar, Cyclone Giri, which hit the west coast on October 22, has caused widespread damage, with the potential for a tidal surge of up to 12 feet in some towns on the Bay of Bengal coast. It is not yet known how many people have been injured or killed. In neighbouring Thailand, at least 25 people have been killed during heavy rain between October 9 and 23, which triggered the worst flooding in Northern Thailand in decades.

A tsunami which hit waters west of Sumatra Island in Indonesia on October 26, has also caused widespread damage with early reports indicating that over 500 people are dead, hundreds still missing and thousands have been left homeless.

These events come in the wake of devastating flooding in Pakistan, which the country continues to recover from, making disaster risk reduction a key priority across the region These events also offer many lessons for those interest in links between disaster and drowning prevention.

The ASEAN Ministerial Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction, currently being held in the Republic of Korea, is discussing the impact of increasing disaster vulnerability in a changing climate on economic advancement, stating that ASEAN was at a crossroads. The meeting declaration states “Disaster risk threatens the economic, cultural, and social life of ASEAN Member States and the livelihoods and well-being of their citizens.

ASEAN has taken a proactive approach with the ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM) being established in early 2003. This Committee can now identify many member states who either have or are developing an active commitment to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and are implementing national plans.

The ILS supports the implementation of the United Nations Strategy for Disaster Reduction and emphasises its willingness to contribute through the Hyogo Framework. This is summarised as:

  • Ensure that disaster risk reduction is a national and local priority with a strong institutional basis for implementation
  • Identify, assess and monitor disaster risks and enhance early warning systemsUse knowledge, innovation and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels
  • Reduce the underlying risk factors
  • Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels.

The International Life Saving Federation, its members and partners express deep sympathies to the governments, communities, and individuals impacted by these aquatic disasters. ILS remains committed to investigating its role in building the capacity of communities to reduce disaster risk, build skills and systems that promote resilience, and to play a role in further debate among its members that captures the important lessons from events such as these.

The International Life Saving Federation is holding the World Conference on Drowning Prevention 2011 in Danang, Vietnam May 10-13. Disaster and drowning is a key conference theme.