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Provincial pushes for school disaster preparedness certification

By C. M. Paul
Fr. V.M. Thomas, SDB
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Guwahati, Sep. 27.  The Salesian provincial in Guwahati, has mooted a plan to train teachers to handle disaster.
''We are sitting on a volcano type of situation as the city of Guwahati is most vulnerable to disaster and there is total unpreparedness,'' said Fr V.M. Thomas, the past president of the Rotarians in Guwahati.
Fr VM's plan comes in the wake of newspaper reports decrying the lack of disaster preparedness in some 200 schools in Guwahati, the commercial capital of Assam state in northeastern India

The head of India's more than 125,000 Catholic religious priests, brothers and nuns, Fr VM said, ''God has been merciful to us and nothing disastrous has happened so far.''
Observing that the residents of the city seem sitting ''in the comfort zone,'' the priest asserted schools should obtain a disaster preparedness certificate from competent authorities within stipulated time.

''The schools should also conduct mock drills at least once a month as in Japan and other countries.

''I welcome the idea of training the 2,000 or so school teachers and make them for school readiness in times of disaster.''

Fr VM's proposal was triggered by a report submitted by Assam Engineering College before the Assam State Disaster Management Authority in March-end. It said that around 200 private and government-managed schools in Guwahati were found most vulnerable to disasters like earthquake, flood and strong winds.

Some of the private schools are more than 100 years old and others were set up in recent times.

The federal Ministry of Human Resource Development in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Authority, Assam State Disaster Management Authority and District Disaster Management Authority of Kamrup (Metro) district have planned to train about 2,000 school teachers by October to handle crisis situations and disasters.

The earthquake zoning map of India divides India into 4 seismic zones (Zone 2, 3, 4 and 5). According to the present zoning map, Zone 5 expects the highest level of seismicity whereas Zone 2 is associated with the lowest level of seismicity.

Guwahati situated on the banks of Brahmaputra River falls in seismic zone-V - the highest earthquake risk zone.
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