Disasters — Page 6 of 23 — LIRNEasia


We’ve had too many disasters. The tsunami, the LTTE, Nandikadal. And now Koslanda. After the tsunami we asked what could be done to avoid a repeat. We found answers.
In 2005 January I asked my friend, Pete Anderson, to take a risk and come to Sri Lanka to participate in the expert forum we had convened on the 26th of January to develop policy recommendations for effective early warning. At that moment I did not have a budget line to pay out of, but I said I’ll find the money to reimburse him, and I did. That first visit is described in AQ, the Simon Fraser University alumni magazine, along with some photos we took on the trip down the coast with Asantha Sirimanne, one of the journalists who first reported the tragedy: Within days of the 2004 catastrophic tsunami that struck South Asia, killing more than 250,000 people, Anderson travelled to Sri Lanka and paced the broken shorelines in the disaster’s immediate aftermath. There he formed ideas on how to help local communities devise and implement their own emergency communications strategies, eventually collaborating with local organizations to develop the Last Mile Hazard Information Dissemination Project, designed to improve the capabilities of the country when disaster strikes. The pilot project generated a capacity-building experience that is leading to community communications improvements.
The ITU’s top officials get elected in a quadrennial event and the current one commences on October 20 at Busan. More than 3,000 government officials and 600,000 attendees from 193 countries are expected to visit. South Korean government is, however, worried about more than 170 delegates, including 107 Nigerians, from West Africa – the epicenter of Ebola outbreak. Seoul has, therefore, “politely” asked Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia not to participate in the ITU’s PP-14, said Wall Street Journal. ITU’s outgoing secretary-general Hamadoun Toure, who also hails from West Africa’s Mali, supports South Korea’s embargo.
It is true that we tend to overdo the ceremonial elements, but well-organized conferences perform a vital function in public policy making and implementation. They concentrate the attention of the relevant persons, both in terms of preparing presentations and in terms of listening. Not all of it sticks, but if well designed, enough seeps through to improve performance in the relevant sector. Next week, the Ministry of Disaster Management is organizing a large conference with national and international participation on the theme “the future we want — A safer Sri Lanka.” I am chairing a session and presenting a paper based on work we did for UN ESCAP on making ICT infrastructure disaster resilient to support more effective action in the relief and recovery phases.
This was published in Ceylon Today but they appear to have some kind of lag built into their online publication. So we are sharing the reflective column by Nalaka Gunawardene from his website. Whatever the hazard, early warnings would work well when adequate technological capability combines with proper decision-making and dissemination systems, and prepared communities. In the case of tsunamis, an effective warning and mitigation system means people living in vulnerable coastal areas know how to respond when a potentially destructive tsunami may be approaching. Tsunami warning systems are made up of three components.
The 2014 LIRNEasia Disaster Risk Reduction Lecture focused on all aspects of the early warning ‘chain’ and what advances have been made in the ten years since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. On the whole the message that was conveyed was very positive. Tremendous progress has been made both in the science of understanding when a tsunami has been generated and in the deployment of instruments throughout the world’s oceans, including the Indian Ocean. The purpose of all this effort and investment is getting people out of harm’s way. That means that warnings, including evacuation orders, have to be effectively communicated to all those in harm’s way; that evacuation must be orderly; and most importantly, that the evacuees take the appropriate action willingly and with knowledge.
A lecture on disaster risk reduction was organized on Thursday 19th June at the Sri Lanka Foundation to consolidate knowledge on the subject in Sri Lanka and share it with other countries, private sector organizations and the general public. The keynote speaker at the event was Dr Stuart Weinstein, Deputy Director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre USA who spoke of the sparse seismic networks and the inadequacies in the tsunami warning system a decade ago. He went on to illustrate the advancements in tsunami warning with the number of warning systems increasing from one to four. Furthermore, the speed at which tsunamis can be detected has improved significantly. (Presentation “Advances in Tsunami Warning Systems Since the Great Sumatra Earthquake of 2004“)  Mr.
Nine and a half years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, I was asked to speak on the role of ICTs in disaster management at the PTC conference in Honolulu. The title says it all: Why it won’t be so bad next time. It was an emotional time and I half-wondered whether I was making claims that were over-ambitious, especially for organizations that were outside government. Today’s LIRNEasia Disaster Risk Reduction Lecture and Discussion at 3:30 PM at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute will provide the answer. It will not be perfect; but it will never be as bad as it was in 2004.
From today’s Financial Times: When asked to explain the importance of CAP, I find it helpful to contrast today’s media and disaster-management environments with those that existed at the time of the 1978 east coast cyclone where around 250,000 people were displaced (about the same as by the 2004 tsunami), but only around 900 died (as against over 30,000 in 2004). Then, there was only one electronic media organisation, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. It had six channels, but the news and information on all six channels originated from one news room (I worked there in 1978). We easily coordinated with the Department of Meteorology, the sole entity responsible for cyclone warnings. On the ground there were far fewer electronic media devices than now, but people like the late GA Mr Anthonymuttu were able to effectively move people out of harm’s way.
This is disaster risk reduction week in Sri Lanka. Nothing official, but we decided some time back that tsunami commemoration is better done in the middle of the year, than in the last week of December when everything, including our brains, shuts down. I learned this from my children’s schools where they celebrate half-birthdays for kids whose birthdays are inconveniently situated. We have been running the disaster risk-reduction lecture and discussion event since 2010. This year, thanks to the hard work and initiative of Nuwan Waidyanatha, we have a whole week of activities.
As we prepare for the IOTX events that start on the 16th of June in Negombo, I was reminded of the first expert consultation we conducted, exactly one month after the tsunami. That was a productive meeting, catalyzing, among other things, the USD 71 million plus dam safety project that has made large swaths of our country safe from inland tsunamis. Thank you to all who worked with us along the way.
Since we run the DRR lecture on a shoestring, there will be no paid media ads. We are grateful for publicity. If forewarned is forearmed and you are in the NGO sector specifically in DRR (Disaster Risk Reduction) there’s a lecture on Disaster Risk Reduction Public Lecture: Regional Readiness. Disaster risk reduction is the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and reduce the causal factors of disasters. Reducing exposure to hazards, lessening vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment and improving preparedness and early warning for adverse events are all examples of disaster risk reduction.
I must have been busy last February. That is the only possible explanation for why I neglected to blog about an article Nalaka Gunawardene and I wrote, reflecting on the experience of providing effective disaster warnings, nine years after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) adds a new dimension to disaster warnings. Having many information sources, dissemination channels and access devices is certainly better than few or none. However, the resulting cacophony makes it difficult to achieve a coherent and coordinated response.
Join us at the CAP Code-fest REGISTER NOW   IT Industry teaming with Emergency Management Experts to experimentaly develop exciting warning/alerting software solutions. ANYONE CAN JOIN the CAP Code-fest and it is Free to Attend. Experiment with interchanging warning/alerting information with disparate software solutions and then build new interfaces between them. Play with various domain specific software designs, XML-based interoperable data structure, information interchanging Application Programming Interfaces (OData APIs), Databases, or simply be a Lurker and give a helping hand with researching concepts. A fun activity with outcomes expected to contribute towards IT tools in SAVING LIVES.
Born2Build is a group of enthusiastic 11year olds competing in a First LEGO League Robotics competition. The 2013 topic is “Nature’s Fury” – “children ages 9 to 16 from over 70 countries will explore the awe-inspiring storms, quakes, waves and more that we call natural disasters. Teams will discover what can be done when intense natural events meet the places people live, work, and play.” Description of their challenge – One of the biggest challenges disaster relief teams face is finding and keeping track of people. When a natural disaster strikes, the rescue workers face many challenges.

Lest we forget

Posted on December 27, 2013  /  0 Comments

Silently crawling seawater soon turned in to a tide of mass destruction. Nearly quarter of a million loved ones were perished across the costs of Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004. The world was stunned by such an unprecedented scale of catastrophe. The rescuers’ power of love overpowered the devastation of tsunami. Hands of prayers are still being raised with tearful eyes and the hearts full of grief.