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The Port Hills rockfall problem
The Port Hills area on the edge of Christchurch was very seriously affected by the Christchurch earthquake sequence. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority will today start the process of demolishing the rockfall affected houses in the Port Hills area. Yesterday they released a statement describing the challenges of this work; this statement is well-covered in an article in The Press, which also includes a nice video taken by a drone of some of the sites. A couple of years ago I visited many of these sites, and I have an old post that presents some of the images that I collected. As a reminder, this is typical of the state of some of the buildings at the top of the slopes on the Port Hills:
Building on the recent success of the last IHRR PG Forum, we now wish to invite all postgraduate students at Durham to the next PG Forum on Wednesday 5th February. The discussion at this meeting will focus especially on the theme of Resilience, Recovery, Psychology.
All postgraduate students with an interest in risk, hazard and resilience research are invited to participate. The title for this session is deliberately broad, and could include research on any aspect of any of these themes. The aim of the session is to consider the psychological dimensions of risk, resilience and recovery in an interdisciplinary context. We especially wish to encourage Arts and Humanities students to participate as well as students from all disciplines. Read the rest of this entry »
Australia has experienced severe heatwaves recently with temperatures reaching over 40C (104F). 2013 is currently the hottest year on record, but if trends continue 2014 could be not far behind.
The extreme heat has led to fire alerts throughout the country making people evacuate some areas. According to the BBC, lightning strikes in Victoria caused more than 250 fires on Tuesday night alone. Some matches at the Australian Open have come to a halt due to the heat wave, with some players suffering serious health effects from the intense heat. This year parts of Queensland and New South Wales have set new heat records.
This is a satellite image of land surface temperature in Australia taken by NASA’s MODIS satellite:
Introduction – the recent UK storms
The recent UK storms have brought exceptionally wild coastal weather, in particular to southern and western England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This has had a profound impact on the geomorphology of the British coast. The Met Office has a nice summary of these storms. The combination of strong winds, high tides, large waves and saturated ground has greatly accelerated coastal processes, promoting failure of large rock masses. The BBC has a nice article that highlights some of these changes – for example:
Porthcothan Bay in Cornwall
From humanitarian aid to disaster risk reduction the word ‘resilience’ is involved in nearly every aspect of people’s ability to recover and adapt after a catastrophic event. Many researchers from various fields along with emergency practitioners, who are depended on during times of disaster throughout the world, use resilience in their everyday language, and even incorporate it into their operations in the field. Although its meaning remains elusive, researchers and practitioners have opportunities to learn from each other about resilience.
There is no one way of defining resilience yet this does not seem to have prevented it from growing in popularity (See The rise of the word resilience). On the contrary, it may have allowed it to spread far and wide in the first place. Within the context of disaster resilience reminds us that even the most damaging, traumatic experiences may reveal how vulnerable communities are able to adapt to unusual situations or environments. In recent academic and practitioner literature resilience is continually evolving.
An emergency is a sudden danger that requires immediate attention. It may be limited in scale, involving many injuries and deaths over multiple sites. Emergency planning focuses on the most effective ways possible to manage incidents that have large numbers of casualties. Normally it is limited to a series of plans relating to certain types of events, especially emergencies that are well-known and happen quite frequently. However, these may not cover operations for all potential incidents, particularly unprecedented incidents – low probability high impact events – which make emergency planning especially challenging. When you have only scarce resources available for planning, what do you do to plan for such rare events?
Using computer-based tools that model emergency response can help make management and resilience planning more effective in the event of unusual, more serious disasters. Research from the REScUE project based at Durham University has produced an emergency response simulator that can assist fire, police, ambulance and other services in responding to mass casualty events. The agent-based modeller and simulator allows responders to prepare for unique emergencies. Read the rest of this entry »
Governance struggles and policy processes: A comparison of earthquake risk
reduction in Nepal and Bihar, India
9 December, Monday 1pm-2pm
Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, Durham University
In this presentation we share some preliminary findings on the national level governance landscape of earthquake risk reduction in Nepal and Bihar State in India. Located along the Himalayan Arc, Nepal and Bihar are both highly susceptible to earthquake hazard and were both affected by the 1934 earthquake. Despite the shared earthquake hazard, and some similarities in terms of ethnic and caste based inequalities and conflict, they have very different political and economic histories. Nepal is emerging from a recent conflict and receives relatively high levels of development aid while Bihar has a strong state system and is now making rapid economic progress after decades of stalled development due to weak governance. They therefore make for an interesting comparison in earthquake risk governance. In-depth interviews with over 40 stakeholders were conducted and focus groups were held to map out stakeholder relationships, interests and challenges of earthquake risk governance. Read the rest of this entry »
As concerns about global food security are on the rise, there are many questions as to how the world will face growing demands for a sustainable food supply. While poverty and food distribution seem to underlie many of the challenges regarding food security, biotechnology in the form of genetically modified seeds could continue to play an increasing role in how food is grown and traded in both developed and less developed countries.
Does patenting seeds create new risks to food security or provide a way of securing the world food supply through centralisation? Are we simply looking at a new way of meeting the demands placed upon agriculture or a new way for chemical corporations such as Monsanto, Dupont, Dow Chemical and others to place new demands on society? Most importantly, where does this leave farmers and the communities they support?
Durham postgraduate researcher Hanna Ruszczyk has been awarded a PhD fellowship for her research on community resilience and earthquakes.
Hanna’s postgraduate award has been made possible thanks to a generous gift from a Durham alumnus. Hanna’s research, will investigate the role of resilience in disaster risk reduction. She will study how resilience strategies can be operationalised within urban communities vulnerable to seismic hazards in Nepal and Bihar, India. Her PhD programme is based in the Department of Geography, linked to IHRR and is supervised by Dr Katie Oven and Dr Colin MacFarlane.
For her PhD, Ruszczyk is making a comparative analysis between Nepal and Bihar, which will investigate how to build individual and community level capacity for resilience. Both have their own particular strengths and weaknesses when it comes to adapting and building resilience to natural hazards. ‘I’m looking at how they can learn from each other’, said Ruszczyk. ‘There is a clear social element of resilience, but what are the most important components of resilience to be aware of?’, she asks. Read the rest of this entry »