The International Life Saving Federation (ILS) President Dr Steve Beerman sends his sincerest condolences on behalf of the ILS Board and Member Associations to the people of Mindanao, the members of the Philippine Life Saving Society and all communities who have been impacted by the flash flooding on the island of Mindanao. Coastal communities were devastated early on Saturday in flash floods triggered by a tropical storm Washi. According to the Philippine Government more than 900 people died in the disaster, many from drowning.
The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands with a total land area, including inland bodies of water, of approximately 300,000 square kilometres. Its 36,289 kilometres (22,549 miles) of coastline makes it the country with the 5th longest coastline in the world. Three major islands are Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Iligan City is the base for the Philippine Life Saving Society Mindanao Regional Office which has over 2,500 lifesaving members situated across the island. Mr Arne Navarra, PLSS President reports that all members are safe and accounted for, and are now busy in rescue and recovery efforts.
Aquatic disasters such as this are unfortunately a regular occurrence in the Philippines. In August key stakeholders including Philippine Life Saving Society (PLS) and Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), established the Philippine Drowning Prevention Council (PDPC) as a means to increase drowning prevention efforts in the country. In opening the PDPC Convenor and PLS President Mr. Arne Navarra estimated over 40, 000 incidents of fatal drowning and non-fatal drowning caused by disasters and daily living in the Philippines. He launched the Philippine Drowning Prevention Plan 2010-2015. Its priority areas are: Water Safety Education, Drowning Prevention Research, Safe Aquatic Locations and Targeting Key Drowning Demographics. Mr. Navarra stated that the tragic events have strengthened the PLSS resolve to continue its drowning prevention efforts, including desire to conduct flood related technical research and to achieve the goal of having a lifesaver in every household in the Philippines.
UN Agencies are now focused on recovery efforts. The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta WahlstrÃ¶m said that there are many lessons to be drawn from this disaster. “The first is that more must be done to ensure early warning systems are effective in an age when climate change is intensifying the impact of typhoons. The second is to understand the deadly cocktail of exposure and vulnerability created by poverty, rapid urbanization and deforestation which results in huge loss of life, homes and hard-won development gains when a storm of this magnitude strikes. The proportion of the world’s population exposed to typhoons and cyclones has almost tripled in the last 30 years and disaster management is not keeping pace”.
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 systems; Use 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.
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 ILS is issuing a general warning to communities impacted by flooding. Simple tips for protecting children from drowning during flooding include; Close supervision of all children; Preventing school-aged children from playing in flooding waterways; Avoiding crossing deep or moving water; Avoid walking near street drainage, where suction or displaced covers can create drowning hazard.
For more information or for interviews, please contact:
Drowning Prevention Commissioner
International Life Saving Federation
+61 408 434 011