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June 27, 2012

Helping Armenia Tackle Natural Disasters

photoThe capital city of Yerevan

In 1988, a massive earthquake struck the central European nation of Armenia, killing 25,000 people and making 500,000 more homeless.

Like Japan, Armenia is subject to regular natural disasters and since 2010 JICA has been helping the country to both anticipate and respond to potential crises.

The agency began by conducting a baseline survey on population, land-use planning, active fault lines and risk evaluation including mapping. Last year it extended its assistance by drawing up comprehensive disaster prevention, rehabilitation and reconstruction plans.

Previously, the Armenia Rescue Service (ARS) had a disaster management plan for the capital, Yerevan and 10 provinces but that plan only covered post-disaster emergency relief measures.

Japan for years has been helping countries around the world to combat natural disaster, but following its own 2011 earthquake and tsunami in which around 20,000 people were killed or are still missing, JICA has begun incorporating the lessons learned from that crisis in its global efforts to help developing nations.

Since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Japan has assisted Armenia particularly in infrastructure development, for instance supporting an electricity transmission and distribution network and construction of a Yerevan combined cycle cogeneration power plant.

Armenia, about one-thirteenth the size of Japan, is located in an Alpine-Himalayan belt where prone to regular seismic activities and earthquakes.

photoWorking group of the project

Following the 1988 earthquake in the Spitak region, Japan sent emergency supplies and a Japan Disaster Relief (JDR) team and assisted in rehabilitation and reconstruction work including the provision of building equipment.

In a project "Seismic Risk Assessment and Risk Management Planning Project" since 2010, JICA conducted an earthquake simulation and developed scenarios for a swift response to reduce the vulnerability of Yerevan where a third of the country's population is concentrated.

JICA is now planning a campaign to increase citizens’ awareness to allow them to use their own initiative to speedily evacuate threatened areas. . The campaign is being initiated based on the lessons learned from Japan's own devastating earthquake and tsunami.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.President Serzh Azati Sargsyan visited Japan in June and visited the site of that country’s devastating 2011 earthquake.

During talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, President Sargsyan said he appreciated Japan’s work in disaster prevention and for two decades of economic assistance which has allowed his country to develop a thriving market economy saying “the assistance has had a huge role in the development of the country.”

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