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.

Geospatial data and analysis for disaster relief

This post is an excerpt from Geospatial Data and Analysis, by Aurelia Moser, Jon Bruner, and Bill Day. If you click on the link below, it will take you to the post, but it also has a link to read more from this book and contains some really cool and useful information!

This post talks more about the recovery process of disasters and how technology has advanced to allow disaster relief agencies to use geospatial data that goes down to the level of individuals, as well as maps showing key infrastructure and up-to-date damage assessments created on the fly, in order to manage response efforts. Ten years ago, geospatial data was not rich enough to map these real-time movements of people and resources, but now that smart phones are ubiquitous around the world, this is something that is available and is being used very heavily in recent disasters.

A few examples are mentioned in the post about how drones are being used more and more and that their videos can be transformed into 3D models. Skycatch is the main industry behind this development. It originally sold this transforming software to construction companies working on very large projects, but it ended up joining the relief effort following the Nepal earthquake in 2015. “Data from the drones was used to identify damaged buildings, map paths for heavy equipment, and plan for the restoration of heritage sites.”

These are just a few of many advancements in technology we have made (and an idea of what else we can do with this technology) with regards to enhancing the relief and recovery processes following disasters and catastrophes.


Psychology of warnings

This article is not necessarily about a recent hazard, BUT relates a lot to what we have been discussing in regards to knowing what a warning means and how people react to it. It talks more about the psychology of people and how they react to warnings of weather. The main things considered is the fact that people sometimes just cannot comprehend what exactly a radar is saying. There needs to be simple and easy to interpret maps/radars of potentially dangerous conditions that are not far off in the future in order for them to really react and not just look over it. More often than not, people will not react appropriately to dangerous weather until they actually see the weather with their own eyes and not just on a radar.



How Can We Lower Women’s Vulnerability in Disasters?

As we’ve learned in class, generally, women are more vulnerable in disasters than men. This phenomenon is especially true in less developed countries. 70% of the deaths in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in India were women. Also, most of the people trapped in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina were African-American women and their children. After the disaster, women’s needs are often overlooked in shelters. After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Sendai, Japan, women reported that they had nowhere to change clothes or breastfeed and no separate bathrooms. A contributing cause to these statistics is that not enough women are working in disaster planning. Only about 10% of the city staff in Sendai working on disaster risk reduction were women at the time of the 2011 crisis. The mayor of Sendai and the Japanese Prime Minister are out to change this fact. They believe that women working in disaster management will increase the resilience of women in disasters. Things are looking up; after the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines, Japan focused its assistance on women, building childcare facilities and reconstructing the agricultural processing plant — a large employer of women. The UN Population Fund commissioned mobile hospitals that could cater to the needs of women in the hard-hit city of Tacloban.

Senate to hold hearing on weather forecast communcation

We always talk about in class how education and communication about hazards are two of the most important things to consider when mitigating hazards. Now, it seems that the Senate is on board with that statements. They are holding a hearing to discuss improving how weather information is communicated to the public, and the impact of communication of forecasts on commerce and safety. The hearing is hosted by the Senate Commerce Committee. One example cited in the article about how weather forecast communication impacts commerce is the Snow-pocolpse traffic jams in Atlanta (2014) and Washington, DC (2011).  The article also states that hazardous weather events from 2008-2013 cost the US $309 billion.

Video of shield volcano lava flow

Kilauea, a shield volcano in Hawaii, has been continuously erupting for the past 32 years. It is one of the most active volcanoes on earth. Because it is a shield volcano, the lava does not explode from the volcano and instead oozes out like is shown in the video below. Normally, the lava flows south to the ocean and builds more land, but it sometimes flows inland. This happened from June 2014 to around the end of the year. The lava flowed at an average of 820 feet per day, giving residents plenty of warning before it impacted their homes and communities.


Japan building a 40 foot sea wall

In response to the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Japan is building a 40 foot tall sea wall to protect against tsunamis. However, the wave height of the 2011 tsunami was 50 feet. So, if a repeat event were to happen, the new sea wall wouldn’t do any good. The wall will be 250 miles long and will be constructed as a chain of seawalls, at a price of $6.8 billion. The wall is disrupt wildlife in the region and will block views of the ocean, lowering property values along the coast. Although not addressed in the article, the seawall will probably also have an impact on beach erosion. Do you think the costs of this project outweigh the potential good?

Natural Disaster Rise or The Human Factor

As we have seen, natural disasters such as cyclones have had more devastating effects in poor communities. Natural disasters may not be getting worse but it may be more of the human aspect that makes the disasters seemingly worse.  Hazards become disasters when the vulnerablity of people is factored into the equation.  There has been an increase in natural disasters when in comparison to the past.  A large reason for disasters to be viewed as increasing in occurance and strength is the human factor. Overall, human population has increased drastically in the past century, and with such drastic increases, there are a multitude of poor or underdeveloped areas on Earth.  The underdeveloped areas are much more vulnerable to these disasters: they lack the resources to try and mitigate the effects of disasters.  Disasters have been increasing in intensity and frequency due to environmental reasons like global warming/climate change.  The Human element also plays a large role, the natural disaster increase is a mix of both the human factor and the physicality of the Earth.

Controversial fire leads to other hazards

Fires in Patagonia, Argentina burned from February 15 to March 6 this year. Reports say cypress, nire, lenga, coihue, cana, colihue, and alerce trees were ruined. The endangered species pudues and huemules are gone as well either as victims of the fire or because they escaped out of the area. Although some are saying the fire started because of a lightning strike near Lake Cholila, others claim the fire was set intentionally. The belief is that speculators set the fire to the ancient forests in order to free up the land for development. Either way, now that the forests lack the protection from vegetation preceding the rainy season the area could now face increased erosion, sedimentation and flooding. In the longer run the forest may no longer have the capacity for moisture and the area could suffer from desertification.

How NASA is Trying to Help Predict Disasters

To expand upon what we discussed in class today, which is that forecasting is a difficult game and requires the assessment of many factors. NASA recently launched a SMAP satellite, or Soil Moisture Active Passive. While the acronym doesn’t make a lot of sense, the reason for launching it does, this satellite is one of a series of satellites meant to measure the effects of certain changes on our planet. The new SMAP satellite hopes to collect data both directly and indirectly on the water cycles around the globe.

This satellite is the fifth of similar satellites that have been launched over the past year in order to monitor the Earth and its processes. These satellites hang in low-orbit around the earth and collect data on a myriad of weather and atmospheric occurrences. The hope is not only to improve the ability to forecast and mitigate natural disasters but to also understand the role humans are playing in the macro-cycles of the earth.

The SMAP in particular will help with something our own bloggers have posted about; drought. Droughts are difficult to predict, especially agricultural droughts, and often there is not enough information available until crops begin to suffer. While California and other south-western states are coping with drought just fine currently; there is always the concern that; what if next time is worse? As we are learning in class there is no way to control for disasters. Mitigation is the key to successful navigation of the Earth’s hazards. These satellites offer one more way to help plan for and hopefully minimize disasters such as drought.