Hong Kong Mudslides 1972

In the 60 years since 1947, 470 people have been killed by landslides in Hong Kong, mostly because of failures associated with slopes that people have interfered with or created. The two largest were the fatal Po Shan Road and Sau Mau Ping on 18th June 1972 (138 fatalities) and 25th August 1976 (18 fatalities).

1972

  • Multiple incidents of landslides have occurred throughout Hong Kong, especially in Wan Chai. Po Shan and Shui Fan landslips have killed 148 people
  • Landslides in 1972 led to improvements in guidelines for hillside excavation and safety and rescue procedures
  • The Po Shan Road caused the largest loss of life from a single mudslide in Hong Kong
  • On 18th June, all British Forces in Hong Kong were mobilised, all police and fire services leave was cancelled and the Civil Aid Service and Auxiliary Medical Servicees were called in to assist rescue Operations

Po Shan Road Landslides, Hong Kong, June 18th, 1972

Work on a construction site above the road, together with exceptionally heavy rainfall in early 1972 caused the landslide.

  • Approximately 40,000m^3 travelled 230 m down slope
  • 138 people killed
  • 20 injured
  • Two buildings destroyed, one of which was 40m high, and one severely damaged
  • Rain storm after the mudslide worsened conditions
  • The main mudslide was 10 seconds long, and forced itself through buildings
  • The road was blocked by falling mud at a construction site, and cracks appeared in a retaining wall
  • The slip carried away nearly all the bamboo framing and metal sheet covering
  • Several buildings underwent subsidence
  • Residents were urged to leave their homes and apartments as a precaution
  • Po Shan Road was cordoned off to the public and nearby homes were evacuated
  • After 8pm, an even larger slip occurred, and in less than 10 seconds, it cleared a section from Po Shan Road to Kotewall Road, destroying several homes and retaining walls
  • The Slip knocked Kotewall Court completely off its foundation and collapsed several flats at Robinson Road and Babington Path
  • 67 were killed and 20 injured in less than a minute
  • Because of the lack of lighting, and because of the rain, as well as the destruction of the transport network, rescue efforts were sporadic
  • Some landslips continued to occur, causing withdrawals of emergency personnel

Sau Mau Ping Landslide, June 16th 1972

  • Landslide buried a squatter village at Sau Mau Ping licensed area
  • 71 people were killed
  • The mud spilled over Tsui Ping Road and into Kwun Tong Resettlement Estate
  • Many of the dead were children

Earthquake Resistant Building Design

Means of creating earthquake resistant buildings in an…

HIC

  •  Computer controlled weights in the roof help to reduce movement by travelling around to specific places to balance out the movement of the building, and help prevent it from toppling
  • Steel frames can sway, which reduces strain on the building during movement, so reducing the chance of a collapse
  • Automatic window shutters prevent any glass that breaks from falling on anyone
  • Open areas close to buildings allow anyone who has been evacuated to assemble. This allows people to be checked for so that emergency services know how many people are missing, and  means that even if something does collapse, it is less likely to fall on anybody
  • Foundations are sunk into the bedrock to avoid clays. Clay can easily enter liquefaction, which makes collapses more likely and also more devastating when  occur
  • “Birdcage” style interlocking frame on the exterior provides a stronger overall structure, meaning less of the building will collapse if there is damage
  • Panels are attached with flexible joins to the outside. Materials  to be flexible so that the sudden strains that the earthquake applies cause less damage, which stops them from bending or snapping
  • Road system built to allow quick access for emergency services. This allows faster response times after an earthquake, and helps limit secondary impacts, such as fires, from occurring, and saves some of the victims’ lives
  • Rubber shock- absorbers take the initial impact before the main foundations can be hit

 

LIC                         

  • Education and training – show people, especially poor people, how to build more robustly, and how to use resources more sustainably and cost-effectively
  • Incorporate new engineering techniques – lighty reinforced flat slab foundation below two layers of reinforced hollow concrete bricks (designed to cause minimal damage in the case of a collapse) forming the base of the wall, covered by damp proofing (to protect against moisture and insects). Wall frames formed of timber latticed with treated bamboo gives high strength and flexibility to a fairly light structure. Galvanised chicken mesh is attached to this so that outer materials, such as cement render can hang on it.
  • Replacing old materials – remove heavy clay roof tiles and replace them with a lightweight corrugated cement-fibreboard roof. This reduces the load on the walls, and in turn, both the chance of collapse and risk of injury if it does collapse
  • Reinforced steel corner pillars provide strength and flexibility to the structure
  • Any work with mixed stone pieces can use parts of other homes which collapsed during quakes- this would prevent the accumulation of debris, and quick action to gather it could assist aid workers.

 

Zhouqu County Mudslides

On the 8th August 2010, a mudslide occured in Zhouqu county, in southern Gansu province (Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture) in the PRC. The mudslide was 5km long and 300m wide, and up to 5m thick in places.

Causes

The mudslide was caused by a variety of factors, human and physical.

Forests around Zhouqu had been cut down for mining and agriculture which lead to soil erosion and destabilisation of the slopes, as roots were no longer holding the soil together and trees could no longer absorb water from the soil, leading to faster soil water saturation.  Despite the logging ban in 1998, trees continued to be felled. In the PRC, there had been 53 hydroelectric construction projects in recent years, with 12 just within Gansu province, where Zhouqu county is located. The dams have caused 750,000 tonnes of water and soil erosion and over 3 million cubic tonnes of bulldozed material, throughout the country. This has left the slopes weak and exposed to rainfall, allowing slides to occur more readily.

Oscillations between the patterns of El Nino and La Nina (climatic events where air currents across the Pacific Ocean change, effecting the local weather systems among dozens of countries) caused unusually intense monsoon rains in 2010.  Regions were receiving an extra 24 mm of rain above the normal daily rainfall. In ‘the largest downpour for a century’ 96 mm of rain fell in just one hour in the area.  The earthquake in Sichuan two years previously created cracks in the rock face and destabilised the ground; Zhouqu county is very close to Sichaun province, so instabilities within Sichaun can very easily effect towns within Gansu, directly to the North. The 9-month drought which preceded the heavy rain had added to the weakness and instability of the soil, especially when followed by the heavy rainfall.

Impacts

Social Impacts:

  • 1,471 people died due to the slide.
  • 1,200 people had to be rescued from the debris.
  • 300 people were never found, and are presumed dead.
  • 1,700 people who were evacuated from the immediate area were forced to live in schools. In total 45,000 people in Zhouqu county were evacuated.
  • Medical care in the region was disrupted as 10 doctors from the Zhouqu People’s Hospital were among the missing.

Economic Impacts:

  • 66% of the county went without power, disrupting local businesses and transport.
  • More than $40 billion worth of damage was caused in Gansu.
  • Power lines were down in 2/3 of the county which had to be repaired. Wider infrastructure was destroyed at great cost.
  • Mudslides throughout China in 2010 destroyed 8.76 million hectares of crops to be destroyed.
  •  The livelihoods of millions of people were entirely destroyed or otherwise decimated and China’s capacity to export was massively reduced.

Environmental Impacts:

  • 300 buildings were buried under mud.
  • A 3km temporary lake formed behind a blockage when the mudslide reached the local river at the base of the city of Zhouqu where the slide occured. This dam later burst causing further damage.
  • The river was clogged with debris, damaging habitats and reducing biodiversity.

Management 

  • 7,000 soldiers, firefighters and medical staff were deployed by the government. 20 speed boats and 4 helicopters were also mobilised.
  • Gansu province received 120 million yuan ($17.7 million) by August 13th 2010.
  • The PRC government promised local families $1,182 worth of financial aid for each victim lost.
  • Tents, food and medical supplies were rushed to the stricken area but the remote mountainous location made access difficult.
  • The governmentpromised to help rebuild homes and buildings in the affected area.
  • A National Day of mourning was observed to help with the emotional trauma.

Sri Lanka Mudslides, 2016

Image result for sri lanka mudslide 2016

Mudslides hit Sri Lanka in May this year. Mudslides hit three villages in central Kegalle district. The landslide started near the town of Aranayake on the 17th May, 2016, but events leading up to it should have made the outcome predictable from the 15th onward.

Many cities were flooded with more than 100mm of rain on the 15th of May. International airports had to be closed just from the weather, and 35 families had been displaced. Airports would remain closed over the next few days.

Causes

3 days of torrential rain destabilised slope areas, in the heaviest rainfall in 25 years. The rain started on the 14th May.

Before the extreme weather, Sri Lanka had been experiencing a drought, and power cuts as hydroelectric power stations could not function. A rare benefit of the extreme weather which triggered the event was that the dams filled up to 75% capacity, allowing a supply of electricity to rescue workers to help them work effectively.

The main landslide area was very sparsely populated by only a few minor villages. No major work had been undergone on the slopes, as evidenced by footage of the event. Instead it was caused by a sudden huge increase in slope water content combined with susceptible rock type.

Impacts

On the 18th, 134 people remained unaccounted for, and 14 bodies had been recovered, with 37 deaths total. 350,000 people were displaced. 92 deaths have now been confirmed. 220 famlies were reported missing according to the Sri Lankan Red Cross. As of May 25th, the death toll was deemed to be 101 with 100 missing people.

The slide crashed into 3 separate villages; Elangapitiya, Pallebage and Siripura, all of which were obliterated.

60 houses were buried in dirt.

The mud level was up to 30ft deep in some areas.

Many sectors of infrastructure were effected, such as planes. Many major roads were entirely flooded, including the Southern Expressway. There were heavy power failures in some towns. The government warned members of industries such as fishing to not go to work until the situation was sorted- this was of course an attempt to save lives, but there was an economic impact because of this upon fishermen.

Response

The Meteorology Department of the government issued a severe weather warning on the 14th, for 12 hours. 100mm of rainfall was expected, with wind speeds of up to 80kmh in exposed areas.

One of the initial responses to the initial weather, was closing down air traffic.  Closed airports included: Bandaranaike International Airport (flights diverted to Cochin International Airport or Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport), and Ratmalana Airport. The Sri Lanka Airforce had to be called in to rescue stranded fishermen. The Navy had to save 200 people trapped in floods on the 17th, and the mud slides started, killing 21 in just one slide. The Airforce continued rescue work throughout using military grade helicopters. 81 Navy flood relief teams were dispatched.

Rescue teams were sent out to the area specifically, so that 156 people had been rescued by the 18th May, along with 1,550 people already sheltered in seven different evacuation sites. Soldiers were active in rescue efforts for weeks afterwards. Military spokesman Brigadier Jayanath Jayaweera said that the situation was being constantly assesed and that more troops would be deployed as needed, but that he doubted they would find many survivors.

More than 185,000 people who lost their homes were housed in temporary emergency shelters. The rain hindered the effectiveness of rescue efforts, in addition to causing the initial event. Many roads were underwater, and impassible, and national parks were completely closed off, and rescuers struggled to bring in their equipment. The Ceylon Electricity Board imposed emergency power cuts as a precautionary measure. In one night, the Army and Navy evacuated 26,000 people from Colombo (the capital). 1,500 armed personal were rallied,  including 71 officers.

All schools were closed on the 20th.

International efforts from other countries included:

  • Australia contributing $500,000 to UNICEF for humanitarian assistance
  • India pledging to provide assistance, and then bringing in Navy ships full of supplies.
  • Japan sent planes carrying emergency items, such as generators, blankets, and water purifiers.
  • Nepal offered $100,000
  • Pakistan gave a 30-bed field hospital
  • Singapore Red Cross donated $150,000 in relief items
  • United Nations- in collaboration with other NGOs- offered people to help administer aid
  • USofA provided $50,000 in immediate aid and a further $1 million in providing water for populations vulnerable to floods.

(Image Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-36328863)

Campania Mudslides, Italy – 1998

On the 5th May 1998, a mudslide hit Campania in Southern Italy.

The region was very hard hit by the area, and many individual towns were at high risk; Sarno and Quindici being two of the most effected. The area has the highest mudslide rate in Italy, with more than 631 since 1918. One such earthquake was in 1980, when nearly 3,000 people in Campania were killed in a single event. 65% of Italy in deemed at risk from landslides.

There were at least 17 slides during the event.

Causes

”Everything is to blame — It’s nature, it’s the authorities, and it’s also us, the citizens”–  Francesco Fligente, a local bus driver. ‘The mountain has been burned systematically” –Andrea Giordani, land surveyor. “[The mudslide was] not a natural calamity but a disaster caused by decades of ransacking the land and sprawling construction.” – WWF

The town had been hit by torrential rains beforehand, which remained ongoing during rescue attempts. The area is made of sedimentary rocks, which are predicted to eventually crumble into the nearby Tyrrheanian Sea, as the soil is very fragile and prone to erosion. This was not helped by local deforestation and a habit of burning patches of ground to achieve this, or by structural work that weakened slope integrity further. Removal of chestnut trees has an especially large effect, as these trees’ large root systems hold soil very firmly together.

The government received criticism for not declaring a state of emergency in the region on the 3rd, and not giving evacuation notice, when geologists first came to believe that slides were about to occur.

Campania is a centre for illegal housing projects, with 20% of Italy’s illegal construction, according to environmental watchdogs. Farmers regularly burned down local plantlife to make room for crops and livestock. Environmental law was regularly not enforced, or even just entirely ignored. Regional officials blamed central government for not giving enough funding to properly maintain the laws.  Meanwhile, the central government blamed the Mafia for the apathy towards environmental laws, and that they were benefiting from the poor regulations.

Geologists were regularly warning about the dangers of building while ignoring regulations in a risk prone zone.

Many homes in the area were built in very land-slide-prone sites, or too close to rivers. 24% of the area is deemed “at risk” land.

Many of the demolished buildings were poorly built out of concrete, and did not have proper foundations.

Impacts

The first news of the start of the event was the Sarno mayor calling up Civil Protection Authorities asking for help to cope with a torrent of debris approaching the city.

At least 147 people died, with about 100 of them from  just the town of Sarno. 1,000 people were left homeless. More than a dozen of the deaths were children. About 5,000 people lived in Sarno. Mud deposits were up to 13 feet deep. The Sarno hospital- Villa Marta- was entirely decimated, with 6 members of hospital staff killed. Workers carried 60 patients outside, and had they not, many more would have died; building of a new hospital outside the worst risk zone had been planned, but government budgeting to allow EU entry slowed this down- the unfinished new hospital was completely undamaged.

A whole public school was also destroyed, trapping many teachers and pupils inside. Many other buildings were also destroyed. Rivers became clogged up with mud up to 2m deep, and 1,5000 people lost all their posessions.

Whole swaths of greenery on the mountain slopes were flattened.

The  most effeceted towns were: Irpine, Salernitano, Sarno, Quindici. Episcopio, Taurano and Bracigliano, but over 230 were impacted.

The most dangerous areas were inhabited by the poorest civilians, who are the most hard hit, as they cannot pay effectively for future accomodation or relocation.

Response

Rescuers from Civil Protection arrived only a few hours after the initial plea was given, at night time. This timing hindered rescue work, as it was too dark to start any serious rescue work and helicopters to help would be unsafe to pilot. The government vastly underestimated the event’s scale, too, and initially only sent a few earth-moving vehicles, that became stuck themselves. By the 6th, volunteers had resorted to digging with their bare hands.

A funeral was held on the 11th May 1998 for the dead in a football field locally, with rescue workers contributing to the ceremony.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi pledged $30 million in relief and reconstruction on the Friday, 4 days after the event.Previous aid efforts had been largely cut down from what was pledged however, due to concerns that over spending would prevent their entry into the European Union. The government even cut funding to the Centre of Geological Studies, so that thousands of geology graduates and scientists were unemployed.

President Scalfaro said that they should focus on reconstruction and aid efforts before trying to find a guilty party. International trips by government officials were cut short in order to stand with the Italian populus and help organise repairations.

4,000 firefighters, troops, forest rangers and medical workers including 80 US marines based in Naples aided the rescues. 5 schools were converted into emergency shelters. Just one of these schools, Edmonde de Amiciis Elementary School housed 260 survivors.

Philippines mudslide 2006

On 17th February 2006, a mudslide hit the village of Guinsagon in southern Leyte province in the Philippines. The slide covered 9km^2, was 3km wide and in places 30m thick. Half a mountain collapsed on the single village. .

Causes

The main cause of the mudslide was a La Ninya event in the Western Pacific. 200cm of rainfall fell in 10 days, weakening the slope strength. Slopes in the region are mostly very steep and mass movement and mudslides occur frequently.

Widespread deforestation during the past 70 years have also increased slope instability. The slide was ultimately triggered by a small local earthquake of magnitude 2.6Mw.

Exposure in that area of the Philippines is high. In 1991, 5,000 people were killed when typhoons triggered landslides, and a similar event in 2003 killed 133 people. Mudslides and landslides are a constant threat due to:

  • heavy and prolonged rainfall from typhoons
  • Steep hillsides largely built of weathered volcanic rock
  • Extensive faulting and earthquake activity

Many villages are located at the base of steep slopes in the direct path of mudslides, and rural populations are high. The people are very poor and have high population growth. Southern Leyte is one of the poorest areas of the Philippines. Between 1995 and 2000 the population grew by +2.73%, placing pressure on environmental resources.

Logging bans have not been enforced by the government, largely due to political corruption. Even where sustainable logging has been practiced, in many places trees with shallow roots have replaced trees with deep roots, and thus made the slopes far less stable.

Impacts

Survivors described how a “wall of mud” descended on the village, killing over 1,000 people, including 246 children at a primary school. Almost every one of the 300 homes was destroyed. The slide killed thousands of livestock and buried the farmland; around 16,000 people were affected.

Response

Hazard mitigation maps have been made of Southern Leyte, but are not very detailed, so that villages that will be effected by mudslides cannot be identified. Following heavy rains and the deaths of 20 people in a nearby village, warnings were issued between the 4th and 17th of February, and several hillside villages were evacuated. However, many people chose not to leave.

Evacuation centres were set up around St Bernard, the capital of the region. Emergency aid in these centres provided safe drinking water, sanitation and health services. The region is very poor, however, so they cannot afford communications, which slowed down response times. Two hundred rescue workers were brought into the site. Unlike earthquakes, mass movements have few survivors.

International aid was provided by the Red Cross and Red Cresent, and their appeal raised US$1.6 million.

The government has commissioned a US$1.5 million geohazards survey and mapping of Leyte to try to prevent future similar disasters.

BRV Debris Flows 1999

In December 1999 Vargas province in  the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was by many debris flows, made of sand, gravel, boulders and trees, with a consistency similar to concrete.

Boulders up  5m diameter were transported down to the coast. 2 million^3 of debris appeared in coastal alluvial fans, which extended of the coast by up  250m into what previously the sea.

Causes

Between the 8th to the 19th of December 1999, a cold front across the BRV deposited 914mm of rain on mountainous coastal regions. In that area, the Cordillera de la Costa runs alongside the coastline. The highest is just 10km away  from shoreline. The seaward slopes thus very steep. Runoff of water is very rapid and the steams high energy because of this.

The mountains themselves heavily weathered. They covered in clay, which very weathered away. The clay feeds of sedimentation downstream.

Widespread deforestation has reduced numbers of trees hugely. Roots are less able to fulfil purposes; therefore interception is reduced, and an even greater addition of slope instability.

Because the mountains drop suddenly, there is not much free available for settlement, and alluvial have become popular for settlement. A 6.3% population increase between 1990 and 2001 gas concentrated urban development closely. These coastal developments hit hardest by debris . The fans themselves are caused by continuous flooding events, so a disaster  bound to at some point.

Impacts

Estimates of death toll range  15,000 to 30,000 deaths. 214,000 people effected. 44,000 people refugees.

20,000 homes destroyed with a further 40,000 damaged. Many single storey homes entirely buried. Towns in Carmen de Uria were even swept away.

Hazard mitigation

The people entirely unaware of the risk and thus there was no preparation in case such an event occurred. Flows can be somewhat predicted based on accumulation of sediment in mountain waters, as a debris cannot without sediment present.

Removal of slums on slopes should have been a priority. The president announced shortly afterwards that victims be re-settled away from the coast, but this was questionable as many  people  chose to live on the coast in order to avoid  the struggles of life in the interior of the country. Afterwards, 100,000 people whose homes had n destroyed were relocated to neighbouring  regions.

Many plains will not be suitable for human settlement in the future unless check dams can be built along rivers in  area. Flood channels have been constructed on the alluvial fans. Monitoring and early warning of exceptional rainfall runoff events had suggested, as have land controls in mountain catchment areas, and alignment of towns to match the path debris flows.

Volcanic Management in Montserrat

Montserrat belongs to the Lesser Antilles island chain; a series of volcanic islands formed by subduction of the North American plate beneath the Caribbean plate.

The island of Montserrat was formed by the Soufriere Hills volcano. The eruption stated in July 1995, and before 2005 had spewed out nearly 0.5km^3 of magma.

The potential hazard on Montserrat was fairly low- although the impacts on the population were huge, it was a small population, and they are still well equipped for evacuations if the situation becomes worse. However, the vulnerability was high due to the small area of the island available for people to move out to before any international evacuations could be planned.

Impacts

The main causes of hazards have been pyroclastic flows, tephra falls, debris avalanches and occasional lava flows.

In 1997, 19 people were killed when they returned to their homes in Plymouth, which they had been evacuated from previously.

The entire southern side of the island had a thick layer of ash on top of it, such that many of the plants were entirely covered.

Many people emigrated from the island after the initial evacuation. Many of these people permanently moved to the UK, the USA or other nearby islands. The initial population was 10,728 in 1990, which had decreased down to just 6,409  people in 2000.

Outmigration had a huge impact on the country. The loss of people meant there was a lack of workers, and thus many businesses suffered huge losses. The lack of customers had a similar effect. The sense of community was lost and many were disheartened at the loss of old friends or acquaintances. A disproportionate number of those who left were the more educated citizens, leaving a less skilled population behind.

The eruption itself crippled the economy. The ash destroyed much of the farmland. The destroyed land also reduced tourism hugely – and tourism was a huge factor in the economy, to which 40,000 visitors were drawn annually.

2/3 of the island is uninhabitable.

The roughly 6500 people living in the south lost everything but what they could pack in their rucksacks quickly.

Many who evacuated north had only low quality accommodation available. Often people would be packed into small rooms with bunk beds and people they had not met before, with 6 bedrooms in a house. There was frequently little or no sanitation, and no electricity or gas available.

Management

The people living in the southern half of the island were evacuated northwards. This plan backfired somewhat as half the population emigrated overseas that had been displaced.

The infrastructure is being rebuilt. A new airport has been completed.

The UK and EU have spent about £200 million on regeneration projects.

Since 1995, scientists have started carefully monitoring the volcano, and updating the public on any changes, and, where possible, warning people as to what impacts there were likely to be. Thanks to measurements of seismic activity, volcanic gases and ground deformation, they have warned people early of pyroclastic flows and allowed preparations so people could evacuate.

Refugees and Italian Earthquakes

The earthquake struck on 24th August, 2016 at 3:36. It scored magnitude 6.2, with an epicentre close to Accumoli, with a depth of only 4km. 298 people were killed. There have been at least 2500 aftershocks, some of which, along with the initial quake, have been felt throughout most of Italy.

The Apennines are a very seismically active area, with many small faultlines. The faults involved recently in quakes have been SW-dipping faults.

Tourism to the rural area swelled the number of people around the area who could be affected by the earthquake. As such, 3 Brits and 11 Romanian people were killed by the earthquake.

At least 365 people had to be hospitalised, though many others had more minor injuries. 238 people were pulled out of rubble. A town near the epicentre, Amatrice, according to its mayor “is not here anymore”. Many cultural heritage sites have been lost- to the extent that structural tests were done on the Coliseum, on the other side of the country, 100km away. Dozens of people were killed in Rome, despite the distance from the epicentre.

Approximately 2,100 people went to emergency camps. 4,400 were involved in search and rescue with 70 teams with rescue dogs.

Italy has well developed emergency services which mobilised 6,600 rescue people overall. Rescue workers asked locals to turn off wifi passwords to help teams (and those needing assistance!) to communicate more easily.

A man trying to loot an empty home was arrested at one point.

A state funeral was held with coffins for 38 victims from Amatrice, including 2 children. The funeral was meant to be held in Reiti, 35 miles away, but local people protested, saying it had to be held locally, putting additional immediate strain onto builders and organisers, who were already struggling with organising basic needs. Another was held in the Marche region, nearby.

The Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has pledged 50 million euros in funds for rebuilding.

Refugees

In Pescara del Tronto, five asylum seekers helped out. Amadou Jallow from Gambia was one of them, and he said they had “to give back to Italian people for the good things that they have done for us”.

35 refugees and asylum seekers in Ascoli Peceno were shocked by the earthquake but started clearing rubble away quickly. A group of 70 refugees pooled their 2 euros a day allowance and made a donation of nearly 200 euros to earthquake victims- the footage they saw reminded them of the places they had fled from.

Italy generally has a very xenophobic attitude towards those of Muslim heritage- to the extent that in some schools refugee children are made to use different bathrooms to the others, due to “hygiene concerns” despite the children being perfectly healthy. Some of the intolerance is understandable:

  •  Since 2014, 400,000 refugees have arrived in Italy
  • Not all of them have enough housing
  • Not all can access schooling
  • Some politicians said the funding spent on refugees should have been spent on helping refugee victims instead.
  • Some victims think it better to be living in a migrant centre than the earthquake victim camps.
  • The emotional strain of the earthquake is going to put people on edge about any issues they encounter.

Any help the refugees gave was entirely from them understanding how stressful the situation was and genuinely wanting to help people in need; no one was trusting them enough to think they’d do anything to help.

Most don’t care about the prejudices- they’re grateful to live somewhere safe at last, and want to give back to their new communities. Some other examples of refugee community work:

  • Syrian teenagers in Seattle volunteering to help the homeless with basic necessities
  • A Syrian refugee setting up meal stations to give homeless people food in Berlin
  • Another Syrian refugee mobilising the refugee community to help in flooding in the British town they are living in.

Earthquake Proofing Controversy

Rieti was meant to have rebuilt many of its buildings after an earthquake in 1974 to improve earthquake resistance; however, an entire family was killed that sheltered within a church during the movement. A primary school in Amatrice was levelled- after 700,000 euros were spent in 2013 on “renovating” it; tests of the school’s permits shows that anti-seismic measures were faked, possibly by the mafia.

The Amatrice bell tower had been recently restored before the quake, but fell, and crushed a family of four.

 

Nepal Earthquake

Fact File

  • The main earthquake scored a magnitude of 7.8, and hit on April 25th, 2015, between Kathmandu and Pokhara
  • There was a major aftershock on 12th May 2015, of magnitude 7.3
  • It was the worst earthquake to hit in 80 years

Causes

Natural

  • The Himalayas are caused when the northern part of then tectonic plate containing India and Australia pushes up towards the Eurasian plate. Both plates are continental, so relatively light- the crusts both push upwards when they collide, causing huge mountains to form as the Himalayas. Because these rocks started as sedimentary rocks from the sea floor, before the continents collided, seashells can be found in rock faces along the Himalayas
  • Kathmandu is located on soft rock, which, when shaken undergoes “liquefaction”- where solid rock effectively becomes a liquid under stress. This undermined building foundations, causing huge property damage
  • Weak rocks and steep slopes combined to make the aid operations very difficult in the area.

Human

  • Bureaucracy stopped a lot of aid progress, hindering recovery efforts and fostering mistrust between locals and aid organisations
  • Political haggling has effectively stopped aid efforts
  • Corruption among aid workers, particularly Indian aid workers, led to Nepalese blockades in progress, which, according to the Nepalese government, are more damaging than the earthquake itself, economically. Blockades have stopped the flow of construction materials, greatly increasing the costs of rebuilding.
  • Nepal is known as a corrupted country, slowing down aid work and reducing the ability of redevelopment
  • As the earthquake started during the working day, many farm workers were out in their fields, which helped protect them from injuries from falling masonry

Impacts

Short Term

  • Almost 9,000 people were killed, between Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Tibet. Within Tibet, foreign nationals of various countries including Australia, China, India and the USA were killed.
  • People panicked upon seeing the damage and were too scared to return home- this had psychological effects on many individuals, but likely probably helped some people’s safety. As Nepal is hit by frequent tremors, many people are still terrified by small ground movements on a regular basis
  • Dubar Square, a noted UNESCO site was utterly flattened by the shaking
  • 600,000 homes were destroyed
  • 21,000 people were injured
  • The earthquake damaged water supplies from springs down to people causing huge clean water shortages.
  • In the Langtang valley, entire villages were wiped out by avalanches.
  • Many Tibeto-Burman villages were destroyed, as the ethnic group like to settle high up on rocky slopes, making them especially susceptible to land slides and avalanches.
  • Avalanches caused by tremors on mount Everest killed 18 people, making it the day with the highest fatalities on Everest. At least 60 people were injured, and some had to be taken out by rescue helicopters.
  • 4 million people are still living in temporary shelters

Middle Term

  • Many people have taken out large loans to help fund house rebuilding, plunging them into debt.
  • Violent crime rates, particularly against women, greatly increased.
  • Women struggled to get aid, leading to even greater gender disparity within the region
  • People no longer had access to decent sanitation, or to toilets, so there were fears of outbreaks of diseases such as cholera

Responses

Short Term

  • Aid agencies quickly started distributing out survival items like food, bed sheets and crude shelter-making materials (like iron sheets) to help protect people.
  • Airports were reopened as soon as they were safe. That said, some had to be reclosed very quickly afterwards due to aftershocks. During these, people were moved out of the building and onto the runway temporarily, to minimise the risks of injury due to damaged building work.

Middle Term

  • Very few of the roughly 800,000 flattened buildings have been rebuilt.
  • Pledges of US$3×10^9 were made, but 3.5 million Nepalese people have still yet to receive more than very basic aid.
  • The government is starting to give out about 200,000 rupees to the worst effected homes- but only 660 families have received anything so far out of 100,000 eligible, and that is no where near enough to build up new houses or recover losses to the family. Just buying sand for a single room can cost 60,000 rupees.
  • To receive this money, 150,000 of the rupees must be spent on home-building, using a 7 step plan to build earthquake-proof homes. In theory, this would greatly reduce the impac of future earthquakes. In practice, each of the 7 steps is very expensive to locals, who have no means to pay for all of it. If they flout the building rules, they get no compensation.
  • Only about 30% of foreign aid goes to beneficiaries; meanwhile, over 40% is just in admin, breeding discontent between locals who view them as corrupt and the aid companies, slowing down the rebuilding. In Nepal, 43% of the aid money goes to the government. Corruption watchdogs have said that local officials may siphon off even more money

Evaluation of Responses

International aid have been trying to help the area, and on a small scale, they have worked relatively well. Where they can work without funding, such as by building small evacuation camp latrines out of bamboo and rock, they are very effective. However, corruption, and growing irritation at the corrupted system has lead to complications and delays to the extent where very little has really been achieved by aid workers, despite their best efforts.

Many locals would probably be fine helping themselves to build housing, as many people are using loaned money to build their homes faster than they could on the government money, if the supply were supported, instead of being crippled by protest groups.

It’s understandable why they are protesting- at a time when their country needs all the help it can sensibly receive, the government has been redirecting funding away- but their protests merely exacerbate the issues they are complaining about, at least from an outside perspective. It’s unlikely they will change anything with corruption soon.

References

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-36089960

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/apr/25/earthquake-survivors-stranded-nepal-aid-bureaucracy

https://www.theguardian.com/careers/2016/jul/18/nepal-earthquake-emergency-sanitation-red-cross