Disaster manangement: some case studies
Aspects of Disaster Management
Disaster Prevention is the concept of engaging in activities which intend to prevent or avoid potential adverse impacts through action taken in advance, activities designed to provide protection from the occurance of disasters.
Disaster preparedness activities embedded with risk reduction measures can prevent disaster situations and also result in saving maximum lives and livelihoods during any disaster situation, enabling the affected population to get back to normalcy within a short time period.
Minimisation of loss of life and damage to property through facilitation of effective disaster response and rehabilitation services when required. Preparedness is the main way of reducing the impact of disasters. Community-based preparedness and management should be a high priority in physical therapy practice management.
Disaster Response / Relief
Focused predominantly on immediate and short-term needs the division between this response/relief stage and the subsequent recovery stage is not clear-cut. Some response actions, such as the supply of temporary housing and water supplies, may extend well into the recovery stage. Rescue from immediate danger and stabilization of the physical and emotional condition of survivors is the primary aims of disaster response/relief, which go hand in hand with the recovery of the dead and the restoration of essential services such as water and power.
Chernobyl Atomic Plant Tragedy 1986
The Chernobyl Power Complex, lying about 130 km north of Kiev, Ukraine, and about 20 km south of the border with Belarus, consisted of four nuclear reactors of the RBMK-1000 design (see information page on RBMK Reactors). Units 1 and 2 were constructed between 1970 and 1977, while units 3 and 4 of the same design were completed in 1983.
The accident caused the largest uncontrolled radioactive release into the environment ever recorded for any civilian operation, and large quantities of radioactive substances were released into the air for about 10 days. This caused serious social and economic disruption for large populations in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. Two radionuclides, the short-lived iodine-131 and the long-lived caesium-137, were particularly significant for the radiation dose they delivered to members of the public.
The casualties included firefighters who attended the initial fires on the roof of the turbine building. All these were put out in a few hours, but radiation doses on the first day were estimated to range up to 20,000 millisieverts (mSv), causing 28 deaths – six of which were firemen – by the end of July 1986.
The next task was cleaning up the radioactivity at the site so that the remaining three reactors could be restarted, and the damaged reactor shielded more permanently. About 200,000 people (‘liquidators’) from all over the Soviet Union were involved in the recovery and clean-up during 1986 and 1987. They received high doses of radiation, averaging around 100 millisieverts. Some 20,000 of them received about 250 mSv and a few received 500 mSv. Later, the number of liquidators swelled to over 600,000 but most of these received only low radiation doses. The highest doses were received by about 1000 emergency workers and on-site personnel during the first day of the accident.
The plant operators’ town of Pripyat was evacuated on 27 April (45,000 residents). By 14 May, some 116,000 people that had been living within a 30-kilometre radius had been evacuated and later relocated. About 1000 of these returned unofficially to live within the contaminated zone. Most of those evacuated received radiation doses of less than 50 mSv, although a few received 100 mSv or more.
In the years following the accident, a further 220,000 people were resettled into less contaminated areas, and the initial 30 km radius exclusion zone (2800 km2) was modified and extended to cover 4300 square kilometres. This resettlement was due to application of a criterion of 350 mSv projected lifetime radiation dose, though in fact radiation in most of the affected area (apart from half a square kilometre) fell rapidly so that average doses were less than 50% above normal background of 2.5 mSv/yr. See also following section on Resettlement.
Bhopal Gas Tragedy 1984
In the early morning hours of December 3, 1984, a poisonous grey cloud (forty tons of toxic gases) from Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL’s)1 pesticide plant at Bhopal spread throughout the city. Water carrying catalytic material had entered Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) storage tank No. 610. What followed was a nightmare. The killer gas spread through the city, sending residents scurrying through the dark streets. No alarm ever sounded a warning and no evacuation plan was prepared. When victims arrived at hospitals breathless and blind, doctors did not know how to treat them, as UCIL had not provided emergency information.
Since 1980, the Bhopal plant had caused death and injury to many. In December 1981, plant operator Mohammed Ashraf was killed by a phosgene gas leak. Two other workers were injured. In May 1982, three American engineers from the chemical products and household plastics division of UCC came to Bhopal. Their task was to appraise the running of the plant and confirm that everything was functioning according to the standards laid down by UCC.
The issue of the danger posed by the pesticide plant to Bhopal was raised in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly in December 1982. However, T S Viyogi, labour minister in the Arjun Singh5 government allayed all fears saying, “A sum of Rs. 250 million has been invested in this unit. The factory is not a small stone, which can be shifted elsewhere. There is no danger to Bhopal, nor will there ever be.” Equally confident was Mukund: “The gas leak just can’t be from my plant. The plant is shut down.6 Our technology just can’t go wrong, we just can’t have such leaks,” he said.
Within months after the disaster, the GoI issued an ordinance appointing itself as the sole representative of the victims for any legal dealings with UCC as regards compensation. The ordinance was later replaced by the Bhopal Gas Leak (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985. Armed with this power, the GoI filed its suit for compensation and damages against UCC in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Besides filing the suit, one of its prime responsibilities was to register the claims of each and every gas victim in Bhopal. Analysts felt that this job was never done, or rather, not with any seriousness for the next ten years. The government set up various inquiry commissions to investigate the causes of the disaster; they remained half-hearted initiatives at best. UCC, on the other hand, moved more quickly with its ‘investigations’: it announced by March 1985 that the disaster was due to ‘an act of sabotage’ by a Sikh terrorist. Then they shifted blame to a disgruntled worker.
kutch earthquake 2001
The 2001 Gujarat earthquake, also known as the Bhuj earthquake, occurred on 26 January, India’s 51st Republic Day, at 08:46 AM IST and lasted for over 2 minutes. The epicentre was about 9 km south-southwest of the village of Chobari in Bhachau Taluka of Kutch District of Gujarat, India. The intraplate earthquake reached 7.7 on the moment magnitude scale and had a maximum felt intensity of X (Extreme) on the Mercalli intensity scale. The earthquake killed between 13,805 and 20,023 people (including 18 in southeastern Pakistan), injured another 167,000 and destroyed nearly 400,000 homes.
Four months after the earthquake the Gujarat government announced the Gujarat Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Policy. The policy proposed a different approach to urban and rural construction with the estimated cost of rebuilding to be US$1.77 billion. The main objectives of the policy included repairing, building, and strengthening houses and public buildings. Other objectives included the revival of the economy, health support, and reconstruction of the community and social infrastructure.
The housing policy focused on the removal of rubble, setting up temporary shelters, full reconstruction of damaged houses, and the retrofitting of undamaged units. The policy established a community-driven housing recovery process. The communities affected by the earthquake were given the option for complete or partial relocation to in-situ reconstruction. The total number of eligible houses to be repaired was 929,682 and the total number of eligible houses to be reconstructed was 213,685. By 2003, 882,896 (94%) houses were repaired and 113,271 (53%) were reconstructed.
The Environmental Planning Collaborative (EPC) was commissioned to provide a new city plan for the city of Bhuj. The plan focused on creating a wider roadway network to provide emergency access to the city. The EPC used land readjustment (LR) in the form of eight town planning schemes.This was implemented by deducting land from private lot sizes to create adequate public land for the widening of roadways.The remaining land was readjusted and given back to the original owners as final plots.
In order to support the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the city, the Government of Gujarat created four assistance packages worth up to US$1 billion. These packages assisted about 300,000 families. The government also announced a US$2.5 million package to revive small, medium, and cottage industries. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank also provided loans worth $300 million and $500 million respectively. Assistance was received from many countries and organisations.
Indian tsunami 2004
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on 26 December with the epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The shock had a moment magnitude of 9.1–9.3 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent). The undersea megathrust earthquake was caused when the Indian Plate was subducted by the Burma Plate and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000–280,000 people in 14 countries.
A great deal of humanitarian aid was needed because of widespread damage of the infrastructure, shortages of food and water, and economic damage. Epidemics were of special concern due to the high population density and tropical climate of the affected areas. The main concern of humanitarian and government agencies was to provide sanitation facilities and fresh drinking water to contain the spread of diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis A and B. There was also a great concern that the death toll could increase as disease and hunger spread. However, because of the initial quick response, this was minimized. In the days following the tsunami, significant effort was spent in burying bodies hurriedly due to fear of disease spreading. However, the public health risks may have been exaggerated, and therefore this may not have been the best way to allocate resources. The World Food Programme provided food aid to more than 1.3 million people affected by the tsunami.
Fukushima Daiichi Japan Nuclear Disaster 2011
11 March 2011. A magnitude 9.0 offshore earthquake hit Japan. This was followed by a 14-metre tsunami which swept into the coastal towns, destroying multitudes of infrastructure in its path. Unfortunately, the waves also struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
From the natural disaster, 9.0 earthquake followed by a tsunami it was truly unfortunately become a man-made disaster when the nuclear reactor melt-function cause many death in the country. The power plant shouldn’t have shut down automatically when the earthquake happen because when the plant was build it already have been consider to avoid this accident happen when the natural disaster happen.
Japanese parliamentary panel challenged claims by the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), that the triple meltdown at the plant in north-east Japan had been caused solely by a 14-metre tsunami on 11 March last year. The panel said the magnitude-9 earthquake that preceded the waves could not be ruled out as a cause of the accident.
It accused Tepco and regulators at the nuclear and industrial safety agency of failing to take adequate safety measures, despite evidence that the area was susceptible to powerful earthquakes and tsunamis.
Since 2006, the regulators and Tepco were aware of the risk that a total outage of electricity at the Fukushima Daiichi plant might occur if a tsunami were to reach the level of the site. But it accused Tepco of ignoring warnings going as far back as 2006 that a tsunami could cause a blackout at the plant.
Uttrakhand Flash Flood 2013
In June 2013, a multi-day cloudburst centered on the North Indian state Uttarakhand caused devastating floods and landslides becoming the country’s worst natural disaster since the 2004 tsunami. The reason the floods occurred was that the rainfall received was on a larger scale than the regular rainfall the state usually received.
The Army, Air Force, Navy, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Border Security Force, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Public Works Department and local administrations worked together for quick rescue operations. Several thousand soldiers were deployed for the rescue missions. Activists of political and social organisations were also involved in the rescue and management of relief centres. The national highway and other important roads were closed to regular traffic. Helicopters were used to rescue people, but due to the rough terrain, heavy fog and rainfall, manoeuvring them was a challenge. By 21 June 2013, the Army had deployed 10,000 soldiers and 11 helicopters, the Navy had sent 45 naval divers, and the Air force had deployed 43 aircraft including 36 helicopters. From 17 to 30 June 2013, the IAF airlifted a total of 18,424 people – flying a total of 2,137 sorties and dropping/landing a total of 3,36,930 kg of relief material and equipments.
Indo Tibetan border Police (ITBP) a Force which guards the Indo China borders on the high himalayas with its 3 Regional Response Centres (RRCs) based at Matli (Uttarkashi), Gauchar (Chamoli) and Pithoragarh swung into action and started rescue and relief operation. 2000 strong ITBP force with its mountaineering skills and improvisation methods started rescue of stranded pilgrims. It was a simultaneous effort by ITBP at Kedar ghati, Gangotri valley and Govind ghat areas. According to official figures by ITBP, they were able to rescue 33,009 pilgrims in 15 days on their own from extreme remote and inaccessible areas.Before Army or Air Force called in, being deployed in the nearby areas, ITBP took the first call and saved many lives. They also distributed food packets to stranded pilgrims who were in a pathetic condition being not having any food for more than 72 hours at many places.
Allahabad Kumbh Stampede 2013
On 10 February 2013, during the Hindu festival Kumbh Mela, a stampede broke out at the train station in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India, killing 42 people and injuring at least 45.
According to initial reports, the stampede broke out after a railing on a footbridge collapsed at the Allahabad railway station. Eyewitnesses, however, said that the stampede was triggered after the railway police charged at the crowd with wooden sticks in order to control the huge rush at the station. 42 people were killed by the crush of people, including 29 women, 12 men, and an eight-year-old girl who died after waiting almost two hours for help. At least 45 people were injured in addition. In an unrelated event earlier that day, two people were killed in another stampede.
Ujjain Tragedy 1994
The Ujjain incident reportedly occurred because of a delay in opening the gates to the sanctum sanctorum, outside which nearly 20,000 devotees had gathered since the early hours of the morning.
s the crowd surged forward, some people slipped and fell on the marble staircase leading to the main complex, sparking panic. Within a minute, there was a huge pile of people. It was only when we started helping them get on their feet that we realised that those at the bottom were dead.
J & K Flood 2014
On the afternoon of September 4 of 2014, two days before Jammu and Kashmir was ravaged by its worst floods in more than 50 years, three hydrological stations on the Jhelum river, which runs through the valley, had detected that serious danger was lurking. Less than 50 km upstream of Srinagar, the Sangam station, operated by the Central Water Commission (CWC), indicated that water levels had risen from 5.7 m on September 3 to 10.13 m on September 4. That’s more than the height of a storey in a regular house.
Nearer the capital, the Ram Munshi Bagh hydrological station registered a jump of more than 3 m in the water level between the afternoons of September 3 and 4. Further downstream, the Safapora hydrological station also recorded readings of a similar jump in the same period.
The information provided by these three stations should have set alarm bells ringing within the state administration which should have then prepared itself for a major flood hitting the area. It could have provided a 24-hour window to evacuate people from lowlying areas, deploy special response teams and to arrange for rationing supplies. Except that none of this happened.
The explanation for this inaction is staggering-these CWC stations are not flood forecasting stations. They are merely supposed to monitor the flow of water from India to Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty of 1960. When they detected the rise in water levels, the information was quickly passed on to the local administration but they simply looked past it, thinking it had nothing to do with flood management. No one bothered to join the dots.
That role is supposed to be performed by the NDMA, headquartered in a plush building in New Delhi’s Safdarjung Enclave. Since the NDA Government took office in May this year, it has secured the resignations of five of its members including its vicechairman, thereby rendering the body headless. While there are still technical experts housed in the building, an NDMA official explains that a lack of leadership means that no work has happened there for months now.
The NDMA, however, is not directly involved with disaster management in each state. Its mandate is to frame policy and put structures in place. Disaster management in the states is supposed to be carried out by the state disaster management authority and district disaster management authorities, all of whom are supposed to have incident response teams in place to deal with such situations. Here again, both the NDMA and state government failed. In February 2012, the state government had approved a three-tier disaster management policy but it was never able to create a separate department which would only deal with disasters. The task was assigned to the respective divisional commissioners or deputy commissioners of the area who presumably had several other things to deal with.
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