Each year around 18 per cent of the country is flooded, killing over 5,000 people and destroying 7 million homes. During severe flooding, up to 75 per cent of Bangladesh can be affected.
The RNLI is running two new programmes in the country, to help Bangladesh prepare for floods and save more lives from drowning. Three members of the charity’s own flood rescue team are delivering the programmes. The first is for 40 members of Bangladesh’s Fire Service and Civil Defence. Over four days, they will learn about swift-water swimming techniques; crossing moving water; using a rescue boat; assessing risks and keeping themselves safe; rescuing others, and taking command of an incident.
The team will then train 25 personnel from other charities operating in Bangladesh, including Save the Children, Voluntary Services Overseas and Plan International. These organisations, which provide important support to local communities, often struggle to carry out their work when flooding occurs. In just two days, they will learn about the dangers of flood water; protecting themselves should they end up in the water; types of rescue boats and how to load them safely; using suitable safety equipment; paddling a boat in flood waters, and what to do in the event of a capsize. This training will give them the skills needed to continue their work in the event of flooding.
One of the RNLI team delivering the training is Martin Blaker-Rowe, who was among three RNLI flood rescue team members awarded a Pride of Britain Award earlier this month for the dramatic rescue of a mother who was swept from her car by raging flood waters last December.
RNLI flood rescue team members are trained in swift-water rescue, to ensure they are prepared to carry out rescues in dangerous and unpredictable floodwaters. They will be passing on some of these skills during the training in Bangladesh.
Steve Wills, the RNLI’s international development manager, says:
‘Flooding is a major issue in Bangladesh, claiming a staggering 5,000 lives there each year and displacing many more people from their homes each time. Flood waters are usually powerful and dangerous – it takes very specialist knowledge and skills to recognise the hazards, stay safe and save others. The training the RNLI is delivering will give the Bangladeshi fire service and other charity personnel the key skills they need to prepare for flooding, and to cope better when it happens.
‘This flood rescue training is part of a bigger programme of work the RNLI has been carrying out in Bangladesh over the past couple of years, to help the country tackle its drowning problem – it currently has one of the highest drowning rates in the world. We’ve helped set up the first ever beach lifesaving service in Bangladesh, and have also delivered specialist maritime search and rescue training to the Bangladesh Coast Guard.’
The flood rescue training is part of a broader package of lifesaving work being delivered in Bangladesh by the RNLI from 29 October to 11 November. While in the country, the trainers will also provide maritime search and rescue training to 25 members of the Bangladesh Coast Guard, teaching them about search planning and management.
Separately, two RNLI lifeguard trainers will re-visit the beach lifesaving club they have helped to set up in the Cox’s Bazar area over the past two years – the first ever fully-established lifesaving club in Bangladesh. This time, the trainers will monitor the Bangladeshi lifeguards running their lifesaving club and training courses, stepping in to offer advice and further training where required. They will spend time instructing the Bangladeshi lifeguards on how to run water safety education programmes in school, and helping them develop the content for those sessions.
The RNLI’s international work aims to help developing lifesaving organisations and reduce the 1.2M drownings that occur around the world each year. The charity is focusing on helping other organisations to help themselves by providing a range of services such as training, supply of equipment, safety education, and guidance on search and rescue and flood resilience.
The charity’s overseas work is funded primarily through overseas sales of consultancy, equipment and training to countries that require those services; and external / government funding where available. In time, the RNLI will begin to fundraise for specific international projects.
Notes to Editors
• A photo of the RNLI flood rescue team (FRT) in training is attached. Please credit RNLI/Robin Goodlad.
• The RNLI FRT was introduced following the RNLI’s involvement with the Mozambique floods of February 2000.
• Since 2000, the RNLI FRT has deployed up to three times a year and been involved in major flooding events including Guyana in 2005, when heavy rain and flooding affected 250,000 people; Cockermouth in Cumbria at the end of 2009, where over 200 people were rescued from the rapid influx of water.
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