Exaggerated or not?

My “healthy” interest in (threatening) disasters, for instance as result of flooding, brings me all (virtual) all over the world. Flooding in different countries, amongst others in Australia January 2011, Thailand in autumn of 2011, retrieve truly attention in the media.

At this moment the situation in the Netherlands due to the large amount of rain, unfavorable directions and power of the wind, results in high water problems all over the country. In my own home province a dike is likely going to be flooded or might even breach. At the moment (12:30 hours) the fire department announced (after inspection of the dike) that the probability of a dike breach is minimal, however flooding of the dike is real. The situation is constantly monitored and future critical moments are constantly updated by Rijkswaterstaat, depending amongst others on weather forecasts.

In the rural area of Tolberter Petten the local people are strongly advised to evacuate.

Source: RTVNoord

Especially local farmers decided not to follow this advice and stay with their cattle. The Groningen sobriety is perhaps well summarized in the words: “It is not too bad”. For a specific part of the area an emergency ordinance  is issued to avoid disaster tourism.

The media pays a lot of attention to this situation. Local and national news channels send a lot of reporters to the specific area and an enormous amount of tweets is spend on Tolbert. According to Twimmer, a site that presents de top 100 of Dutch “trending topics”, #Tolbert was ranked number 8 in the list at a certain moment. The information spread by twitter varies from serious updates about the local situation to bad jokes.

How will this end? The uncertainty with respects to the forecasts (is the dike going to be flooded or breached, and if so when?) makes it very difficult to forecast exactly what is going to happen. If not is going to happen, was the advice of evacuation justly beaten up in the wind and will the attention in the media (especially Twitter) mostly turn into sarcasm and more bad jokes. Time will tell if it was exaggerated or not…

“All roads lead to Rome” or what started with checking my e-mail, resulted in spending hours browsing the internet

Today was a perfect day to deal with my overload of private e-mail. Very soon I arrived at several e-mails from PreventionWeb. PreventionWeb is for me the source of information regarding disaster risk reduction and supplies me with lots of interesting links to valuable information, especially with respect to my field of interest, resilience. The first PreventionWeb e-mail contained a link to the FP7 Cooperation Work Programme 2011 with Theme 6 – Environment, Activity 6.1 Climate Change, pollution and risks, Sub-Activity 6.1.3 Natural Hazards, Area 6.1.3.2.Vulnerability assessment and societal impacts, ENV.2011.1.3.2-1 Building societal resilience to disasters in Europe (time to take a breath again). Results of this theme should be concepts and methods to define and measure the resilience of a society to disasters, exactly the theme that is just in my line.
Did I know what the consequence of reading this particular e-mail for the rest of my day would be? No! Curious about opportunities within the scope of this FP7 programme I started to look for information on the Cordis website of the European commission. Well, let’s says, it took me some time to final arrive to the conclusion that there were currently no calls for Environment. However, I could continue my quest of the day via two projects that started in 2008, MOVE and ENSURE, framed within the topic “Frame for better vulnerability assessment”. These projects mainly referred to vulnerability as key concept but to a limited amount resilience was also mentioned, especially when the Hygo Framework for Action is quoted: “culture of disaster resilience”. Although the projects are already running for 2 years and specific websites are created, there are not many results available yet. But running another sweep over the internet, brought me to another FP7 project, called CapHaz-Net, Social Capacity Building for Natural Hazards – Towards More Resilient Societies. Very interesting project when reviewing their main research question “How can we enhance the capacities of European societies to prepare for, cope with and recover from the negative impacts of a ›natural‹ hazard?” and their outcomes, like the work packages reports on for instance “Risk perception and natural hazards”. One of my first steps in such cases is to skim through the report and take a look at the literature. And it is always nice to see familiar publications amongst the authors referred to, like for example “Risk Society” of Ulrich Beck.
But do all roads lead to Rome? Was it the hours worth spending on internet and then to realize that you arrive at the same “spot”? Yes, it was, because the different roads show different beautiful surroundings of interesting areas and make my view upon the world of risk, vulnerability and resilience more complete.
Are there no drawbacks? Maybe one; the number of e-mails in my inbox did not reduce during the last couple of hours… Continue reading ““All roads lead to Rome” or what started with checking my e-mail, resulted in spending hours browsing the internet”

Breaking news?

What is breaking news: our Dutch crisis with respect to the statement of our Prime minister in response to the Iraq report or the earthquake in Haiti?

In the Netherlands a government committee yesterday presented a critical report on the Dutch position with respect to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In a first response our Prime minister did not agree with a number of the conclusions, but it was not clear who he represented while he presented his statement. The consequence is an emergency debate and it is the first news item on TV. Breaking news? Not from my point of view: at the same time that a crisis is looming in The Hague, in another part of the world a real crisis unfolds. In Haiti an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck just before 17.00 hours local time on the 12th January, followed by at least 3 aftershocks above a magnitude of 5 in the same region. Information is pouring in slowly, but based on this information it is clear that in and around Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, the consequences are devastating (click here for an overview of the disaster in pictures). Prime minister Jean Max Bellerive estimated that 100,000 people might have died; hospitals are collapsed, making it impossible to provide the necessary help to those who survived but are wounded. International assistance via Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) is mobilized and will arrive shortly in Haiti.

Haiti, a poor country with a Human Development Index of 0.532 (Human Development Report 2009, Annex H, p. 173 http://bit.ly/6FUljy), is known as a country frequently hit by natural disasters, most recent by one tropical storm and three hurricanes (Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike) in 2008, resulting in approximately 800 deaths.  Due to the fact that Haiti is still recovering from the consequences of these disasters a lot of humanitarian aid organizations are present today in Haiti, along with a 9,000 person strong UN peace keeping force, known as MINUSTAH, installed after a rebellion in 2004 that forced elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile.

Haiti itself does not have the equipment, resources or facilities to deal with such a disaster and has to rely on assistance from the outside. During the following days more information will become available and will show the real size of this disaster and will get the attention it deserves, also in the Dutch media, as this crisis will not so easily be defused as our Dutch crisis in parliament.

New blog? There are already so many out there!

Hi there world!

Many people are already out there “blogging” their way through cyberworld. So why another blog? Maybe because I would like to add something as well to this interesting world, to start some discussion about things that keep me busy, but maybe other as well.

My blog will be an irregular one, it will be dealing with my interests especially in the area of disaster risk reduction, climate change, environmental degradation, coastal zone management. I will try to relate the different subjects, with as buzz word “resilience” of the coastal zone area, but I will write about subjects focused on either one of the subjects as well. If you are interested to comment on my blogs, start a discussion, give me feedback, feel free, it will only increase the drive to blog on!

For now, merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!