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Mobile game teaches kids survival tips

Updated: 2014-05-14 07:05
By Agence France-Presse in Ayutthaya, Thailand ( China Daily)

Dodging electrocution, drowning and even crocodiles, the Thai virtual hero of a new mobile game called Flood Fighter aims to educate children across Asia about the perils posed by Mother Nature.

More than 800 people, including dozens of children, were among the victims of devastating floods that hit Thailand in 2011, affecting 65 of 77 provinces.

In an effort to prevent further deaths, UNESCO has hatched the idea of a free education mobile game app to spread the word.

"In Thailand, everybody has a mobile phone, so why not convey our message through an application?" said Ichiro Miyazawa, who oversaw development of Sai Fah: The Flood Fighter.

The free download for smartphones and tablet computers has proved a hit in a country that in 2012 had almost 130 mobile telephone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, according to the International Telecommunication Union.

Just a few weeks after its launch in January, the game topped the charts for educational apps in Thailand, with more than 22,000 downloads.

The concept is simple: The house of lead character Sai Fah, whose name means "lightning", has flooded.

He must complete missions during 22 episodes before, during and after the rise in the waters, each one carrying a message of prevention.

The tasks include stocking essential items, putting important belongings high up, not drinking unboiled water, cutting the electricity supply and saving power, as well as avoiding snakes that have been forced from their natural habitat and crocodiles that have escaped from farms.

Ayutthaya province, where the game is set, was particularly badly affected by the 2011 floods. Homes, temples and car factories were underwater for weeks.

In the district of Ban Praek, where UNESCO visited to promote the game, bad memories of the disaster are still raw.

"The water came up to my head," said Nittaya Soponpit, the director of a local community education center.

She believes the game will help children be ready for any repeat.

"They will know how to prevent, how to prepare, how to handle floods."

Some of the game's lessons appear to have already been learned.

Next time, "I will prepare drinking water", 17-year-old student Kitkanok Klungnumkoo said after trying out the game at a demonstration by UNESCO.

After its success in Thailand, a recently launched English-language version of the game aims to spread the message in other Asian countries affected by floods, such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines.

Those countries are drenched by annual monsoon rains that regularly cause floods, with rapid urbanization, deforestation and poorly designed infrastructure aggravating the problem.