Many nations aren't prepared for disaster

What others say

Posted: Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The humanitarian effort that is needed in southeast Asia will be the greatest the modern world has ever been confronted with following a natural disaster.

All structures of cooperation are being tried by an event never before witnessed, but not unforeseen. This is a vital task for the bureaucracies of international aid organizations, because solidarity must be established quickly and effectively. The very system of multilateral collaboration hangs in the balance.

It is estimated that the human loss will be greater that 70,000 people. Many more will die because of untreated injuries or diseases in the following weeks. It will be many years before that part of the world will be able to return to what is considered a normal life. ...

Experts and governments agree that many thousands of lives could have been saved if the affected countries had been connected to some international early alert system, as there is in the Pacific, of which Chile is a part. Still, are we prepared to adequately save ourselves in a disaster of this magnitude? ...

We can hardly be optimistic if, despite counting on all the adequate mechanism of prediction, those responsible for making them effective - municipal officials - exhibit an inhuman lack of interest. Because of their carelessness, as an expert pointed out, we continue to build clinics, nursing homes and hospitals right on the edge of the coast. ... The fact is there are millions of people in our seaside cities who ignore the procedures for surviving a tidal wave. It is not only because they aren't interested. Some authorities are not doing their jobs.

- La Nacion, Santiago, Chile

Dec. 29

Filipinos can only thank the heavens for keeping away from this country the deadly tsunamis that swept through Asia last Sunday. Otherwise we would be joining the other tsunami-stricken nations in wringing hands over the lack of effective early warning systems for natural disasters.

President Arroyo admitted yesterday that the country lacked forecasting capability for giant waves and other natural catastrophes. Even before the tsunamis unleashed by a powerful earthquake off the Indonesian coast killed tens of thousands across Asia, the disaster preparedness of the Philippines was already under question. ...

Geologists said the magnitude 9.0 quake that triggered the recent Asian tsunamis knocked the Earth off its axis and permanently altered the regional map. Experts in Japan, where a rapid alert system for tsunamis following temblors has been in place since the Kobe earthquake a decade ago, said thousands of lives could have been saved if a similar warning system was in place in the stricken countries. It took up to two hours for the massive walls of water to roar into the coastlines of South and Southeast Asia, the experts noted, but there was little or no warning of the approaching danger.

The Philippines is no stranger to tsunamis. In August 1976, a tsunami killed thousands in Mindanao. Since then, however, nothing has been done to upgrade the nation's early warning capability. The nation cannot predict the strength of typhoons with reliable accuracy, much less the approach of killer tsunamis. This deficiency must be addressed before the nation faces massive catastrophe.

- The Philippine Star, Manila

Dec. 29

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