Republic of Korea disaster highlights need for environmental emergency preparedness

The recent chemical disaster in the Republic of Korea underscores the critical importance of preparing communities to cope with environmental emergencies for the protection of human health and nature, according to Green Cross International.

On 27 September 2012, an explosion at the Hube Global plant in Gumi caused eight tonnes of hydrofluoric acid to leak, killing five people and forcing approximately 3000 to be treated for nausea and other conditions. Three hundred people have been evacuated. The area around the plant was this week designated a disaster zone.

Expressing solidarity and sympathy with the people and communities affected by this disaster, Green Cross stands ready to offer its support to relevant actors to further strengthen systems to prepare for environmental emergencies.

“Manmade environmental emergencies like the crisis in Gumi can be prevented, or their impacts reduced, if communities and authorities take the adequate precautionary measures,” said Vladimir Sakharov, Director of Green Cross International’s Environmental Emergencies Preparedness Programme.

The Republic of Korea is one of the world’s most advanced countries, with a strong track record in the prevention of and preparation for various disasters. But the Gumi crisis demonstrates that all countries, ranging from the well-prepared to those lacking in such measures, must remain vigilant to respond to manmade emergencies.

Green Cross launched its Environmental Emergencies Preparedness Programme in 2012 in direct response to the dramatic increase in the frequency and magnitude of natural and manmade disasters that severely affect lives, livelihoods and the environment.

Communities and local people are at the forefront of responding to environmental emergencies, such as industrial and technological accidents. Risks and impacts at local levels can be reduced through greater outreach and adequate disaster preparedness.

Green Cross works with multiple partners to strengthen community-level preparedness for manmade environmental emergencies, including United Nations agencies, civil society, the private sector and governments.

Green Cross International (GCI), founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mikhail Gorbachev in 1993, is an independent non-profit and nongovernmental organization working to address the inter-connected global challenges of security, poverty and environmental degradation through a combination of advocacy and local projects. GCI is headquartered in Geneva and has a network of national organizations present in almost 30 countries located around the world.

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