November 2, 2015
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, second from left, and Naoto Nikai, the Japanese Ambassador to Chile, second from right, attend the seminar's opening ceremony.
On Oct. 13, which is designated the International Day for Disaster Reduction by the United Nations, the kick-off seminar for the Disaster Risk Reduction Training Program for Latin America and the Caribbean in Chile — also known as the KIZUNA Project — was held in Santiago, Chile's capital. The project aims to develop human resources for disaster risk reduction in Latin America and the Caribbean. About 200 people from Japan, Chile and 10 other countries from the region attended the seminar. Also in attendance was Chilean President Michelle Bachelet Jeria. Looking back at the long history of cooperation between Chile and Japan, she emphasized the importance of the two countries working together to widely share their experiences of natural disasters and their knowledge of disaster risk reduction with the Latin American and the Caribbean countries through this project.
At 7:54 p.m. on Sept. 16, 2015, central Chile was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.3. As soon as the earthquake struck, a tsunami warning was issued urging residents to evacuate to higher ground. As a result, human casualties were kept to a minimum relative to the size of the earthquake. This prompt response by the Chilean government, related organizations and local residents was highly praised by the United Nations. One of the factors that made such a response possible was the disaster risk reduction support JICA has been providing for a number of years. Chile's experience demonstrated the effectiveness of JICA's diverse range of support for developing infrastructure and human resources, including revisions to earthquake resistance standards for buildings, improvements to the tsunami warning system and the implementation of evacuation training programs.
Like Japan, Chile is located in the circum-Pacific seismic belt, where disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis, frequently occur. The KIZUNA Project was launched at the Third U.N. World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (held in March 2015 in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture). The aim of the project is to disseminate disaster risk reductions technologies and knowledge that Japan and Chile have acquired over the years to Latin American and Caribbean countries where natural disaster often occur and establish Chile as a hub for the development of human resources for disaster risk reduction.
The project aims to develop the capacity of personnel — including researchers and administrative officers engaged in disaster risk reduction — and to create a disaster risk reduction network within the region. In collaboration with the Chilean government, local governments, universities, research organizations, local communities and others, JICA invites researchers and administrative officers from Latin American and Caribbean countries to Chile to attend training programs and seminars on a variety of themes (such as enhanced seismic resistance for bridges, post-earthquake risk diagnosis for buildings, and disaster prevention plans for local communities) with a view to enhancing the capabilities of 2,000 people in five years. JICA will be sending Japanese experts to Chile to introduce and share information on Japanese technologies and experience, while also promoting the more widespread adoption of disaster risk reduction measures throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
Participants visit the University of Chile's National Seismological Center and ask questions about how to gather information during an emergency.
The kick-off seminar was jointly organized by JICA and its Chilean counterparts (*1), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AGCID) and the Ministry of the Interior’s National Emergency Office (ONEMI). In his keynote address, Salvadoran Minister of Public Works, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Gerson Martinez emphasized the importance of making a preliminary investment in disaster risk reduction, as well as giving due consideration to the socially disadvantaged and the "Build-Back-Better" approach, saying: "Although Japan is one of the top ten nations that are vulnerable to natural disasters, it is not included among the top nations at high risk of suffering damage from natural disasters. This is because Japan has put a great deal of effort into mitigating the effects of disasters before they occur."
Masahiko Murata, one of Japan's representatives and director of the Research Department of the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution (Hyogo Prefecture), explained the initiatives used by his institution to convey the lessons learned from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, emphasizing the importance of self-help, mutual help and community bonds in dealing with disasters. Also, Junichi Hoshikuma, senior researcher at the Public Works Research Institute, described the achievements of JICA's cooperation with Chile (such as a project for revising seismic design standards for bridges) along with some lessons that can be learned from case studies on disasters in Chile and Japan. Meanwhile, Rodrigo Cienfuegos, one of Chile's representatives and director of the National Research Center for Integrated Natural Disaster Management, made a presentation on the results, including tsunami simulation models, obtained from the Research Project on Enhancement of Technology to Develop Tsunami-Resilient Community, a SATREPS (*2) scientific cooperation project that has been jointly conducted with Japan since 2012.
On Oct. 14, group sessions were held in which experts engaged in group discussions on four different themes, including earthquake-resistance standards for buildings and emergency rescue operations for urban areas. In addition to Japan and Chile, interested parties from Peru, Ecuador, Argentina and other Latin American and Caribbean countries participated in the discussions to share local issues and knowledge. In the afternoon, participants visited ONEMI's Early Warning Center and the University of Chile's National Seismological Center, where an active Q&A session was held concerning information gathering during earthquakes and other emergencies, as well as on warning systems.
Sign indicating a tsunami hazard area
People gather at a rendezvous point for participants in an evacuation drill.
A country that is regularly hit by earthquakes, Chile was struck by a large-scale earthquake with a magnitude of 8.8 in 2010, resulting in over 500 deaths and over 50 missing persons. This earthquake highlighted a number of problems, including delays in the issuing of tsunami warnings. As a result of the earthquake, Chile recognized the need for further disaster risk reduction initiatives. Accordingly, JICA is supporting Chile in implementing a number of initiatives through the above-mentioned SATREPS project, including the development of accurate tsunami warning methods as well as a program for enhancing the ability of local communities and residents to cope with the damage caused by a tsunami since 2012.
For this project, JICA conducted a tsunami evacuation drill at night in August 2012 in northern Chile with the participation of 60,000 people from all walks of life, including on-duty sales store employees and families with children. JICA also held a seminar on the development of tsunami warning methods as part of programs covering a wide range of areas, from the construction and implementation of warning systems through to evacuation.
In the kick-off seminar, Rodrigo Cienfuegos, the Chilean representative for the project, made the following comment: "Thanks to the cooperation of JICA, our tsunami damage forecasting technology has greatly improved. This technology can also be used in other Latin American countries that are at risk of damage from tsunami." He expressed his gratitude for JICA's cooperation over the past years, emphasizing his determination to widely share the results not only within Chile, but also with other Latin American countries.
The support that JICA provides to Chile with regard to disaster risk reduction includes a number of other projects intended to help mitigate tsunami and earthquake damage, including “the Earthquake Disaster Mitigation of Structures (1994 to 1997)” and “the Project on Capacity building to seismic events and tsunamis (2010 to 2011).” The knowledge acquired through these projects is likely to have contributed to minimizing the human casualties suffered during the large-scale earthquake that occurred in September of this year.
The Disaster Risk Reduction Training Program for Latin America and the Caribbean — also known as the KIZUNA Project — was launched with the aim of creating a disaster risk reduction network that would connect countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. As part of its efforts to create disaster-resilient communities, JICA intends to continue to provide disaster risk reduction support for Latin America and the Caribbean.
*1: Organizations, administrative officers and engineers who are targeted to be the recipients of technology transfers and policy advice in international cooperation projects.
*2: Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development. A research project scheduled to run for three to five years that is jointly implemented by JICA and the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) to enable researchers from Japan and developing countries to work together in resolving global issues.