The Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Affairs (Midmar) is finalising plans on the use of mobile phone short messaging service to alert the public about looming disasters, an official has said.
The new early warning system is expected to reduce the impact of disasters in the country, according to the director of research and public awareness at the ministry, Jean Baptiste Nsengiyumva.
With the initiative, people will be able to receive early warning disaster messages on their mobile phones to alert them before disasters strike, he said.
Rwanda Meteorology Agency, that forecasts weather and detects possible disasters, will be sending text messages on people’s mobile phones, warning them to vacate the areas when necessary.
This, according to the official, will help both people, especially in prone disaster areas as well as government agencies in charge of intervention, to respond immediately.
Statistics from Midmar indicate that about 112 people died of landslides, floods and lightning last year while about 124 were critically injured.
In the same year, 3,934 houses were demolished, mostly by heavy rains, floods and landslides. Over 2,201 hectares of land were also devastated by the same disasters in various areas.
Nsengiyumva said last week that though currently the meteorology agency gives early warnings about future heavy rains, responses from other agencies were still slow which leads to death and destruction of properties.
“We hope the new project will help reduce the damage and possible consequences. We are working with other partners to implement the project,” Nsengiyumva said.
He said that the new project is intended to complete other monitoring initiatives in place like use of Geographical Information System (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS) as well as remote sensing machines all of which identify likely future disasters.
Districts that are most prone to disasters include Rubavu, Karongi, Musanze, Nyamasheke, Burera, Gasabo and Kirehe.
Antony Twahirwa, the head of Weather Forecasting and Early Warning at Rwanda Metrology Agency, said they had completed the pilot study on use of SMS project in Kigali City, and its time to roll out the system to other parts of the country.
“We have the information; what remains is implementing the project,” he noted.
He maintained that the implementation will commence in two-weeks time.
The three telecommunication companies in the country will be asked to bid for the implementation of the project.
The Rwanda Meteorological Agency (RMA) will be the official source of warning information related to all meteorological hazards, including rainfall, thunderstorms, and strong winds.
The Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA) Hydrology Department will be the official source of warning information related to all hydrological hazards, including flooding of rivers, catchments, and river basins.
The RNRA Geology and Mines Department will issue warning information related to geological hazards such as landslides, mudslides, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.