Rebuilding and Mitigation in Peru

This years floods in Peru are some of the worst the country has ever faced, with 10 times the usual amount of rainfall leading to devastating amounts of running water and many landslides. There are currently at least 100 people dead, 158,000 people displaced from their homes and 210,000 of those homes damaged. In addition to personal and private loses the overall infrastructure within the country itself also took major hits with as many as 260 collapsed bridges, and 3,000 km of roads destroyed. The overall damages have come to cost $3.1 billion dollars, and plans to rebuild comes with a price tag of $9 billion dollars.

These floods and landslides came during what is regularly known as landslide season, but even in a country which teeters between drought and floods nothing could prepare them for the sheer amount of water and the sheer power of the floods they would experience. Not only was there a record amount of rain, which caused dry rivers to become a white water rafters dream, but there has never been so many people living in the direct path of these floods. While the country is not well-prepared to deal with flood season, this particular flood season completely exposed the poor infrastructure of Peru.

Jorge Nieto, the defense minister of Peru, stated that this disaster has opened up great opportunity for improvements, claiming that this country needs”reconstruction of historic proportions”. Nieto’s mitigation plan includes channeling all of the 30 or so rivers which flow from the Andes to the Pacific. He also wants to create reservoirs, especially in mountainous areas where there is often a shortage of water, this is also his attempt at making the best of all the rains.

President Kuczynski commented on the $9 billion dollar two stage reconstruction plan. The first stage will take care of immediate reconstruction of homes, cities and towns that have been damaged or destroyed. The second stage, which will be significantly longer will include building the infrastructure in way which brings Peru to become a modern and organized country in the face of potentially more extreme climate events.

Not only did the floods cause dollar damage to structures, but the floods carried so much debris including dead livestock that they almost threatened the water supply in the capital city Lima. Sedapal, Peru’s waterboard, was forced to shut off water for five days in order to properly sanitize and filter the contaminated flood waters. Lima which is the second largest desert city in the world, is used to not having enough water but was nowhere near prepared to have the amount of water that the floods brought in. These disasters just further proved the insufficient handling of water in Lima, where 1 million people do not have access to clean running water.

Not only is the infrastructure a factor in the amount of devastation, but where people have decided to settle also contributed to the tragedy. People who are moving out of rural areas and towards more urban dwellings have been settling in floodplains out of necessity. These residents were hit extremely hard by landslides as well as flooding. The reconstruction plans for Lima must not only be adaptive but also corrective, and could potentially involve relocating an upwards of millions of people. The UN has also stepped in and warned that Peru has to involve in some kind of multi-hazard warning system, as well as better education and understanding of these events as well as the impacts that climate change have on them.

This was a really well-written and thought out article, that left very few, if any, stones un-turned. This is another case which shows that education is super important. The people were gearing up for a drought in Lima, and not only was the infrastructure not prepared to handle this amount of water, the people were also not knowledgeable about what to do. Furthermore this article brings up that where people had settled was a contributing factor to the deaths and destruction. People because of poverty are living in floodplains which is one of the most dangerous habitats to settle in, because all rivers flood. The floods in Peru are yet another example of the socioeconomic gap, both because of where people were forced to live, and also because so many people 150+ thousand people are displaced from homes. When disasters strike developing countries they take everything down with them. I am glad however, that the current president of Peru and the other government officials sound like they are taking mitigation really seriously. Their plan involves channeling and also building reservoirs that will hopefully prevent something like this from happening in the future. The article did not say but I am hoping that the way in which they rebuild the infrastructure is also more sound, and better equipped for handling flooding in the future. This sounds like it is going to be a long process, but I think Peru will be better off after it is over.

Building Modifications for Wind

This is not a natural hazard, but I heard about this from an old teacher of mine and had it share it!

There is a skyscraper in Taipei called Taipei 101 with 101 floors, and it sits very close to a fault line and is often subject to earthquakes and high winds. The engineers who constructed the building decided to counteract some of the shaking and swaying by putting a massive suspended weight, an 18′ steel sphere weighing 728 tons, within the building (which hangs between floors 87 and 92 and is visible to the public). The idea is that this massive weight and its cables and parts act like “shock absorbers” and reduce the building’s swaying by 40%!

You can see diagrams and watch the sphere in action here:


Possible Budget Cuts for NOAA

House Republicans have approved a $410 million reduction for NOAA. Basically, this would severely hinder the ability to provide early warnings of natural disasters, which we know is one of the most important aspects of mitigation. The proposal includes a lack of funding for important satellites that NOAA is expecting to replace. Other specific worries include tsunami-monitoring sites in Hawaii and Alaska.

This is ridiculous! Republicans say that NOAA may choose what programs they reduce, so it wouldn’t have to be about weather safety. But that is a HUGE amount of money to cut. I just can’t imagine this having real impact on us. The article states that Republicans have been going after NOAA ever since their research has expanded into climate change. It’s really interesting to see mitigation become a political issue in this sense. What do you guys think?