Wednesday morning a large earthquake hit Southern California — initial reports saying it had a 6.4 magnitude and could be felt in Las Vegas.
Washington Emergency Management (WEM) took the opportunity to remind folks on how to be prepared for an earthquake.
If you feel an earthquake, drop, cover and hold, WEM said in a tweet. If you feel shaking and you’re near the coast, get to high ground right away. WEM says to assume a tsunami is on the way and don’t wait for sirens to get higher.
New York City based emergency management official Kelly McKinney has responded to disasters such as Hurricane Sandy and the Harlem Gas Explosion. But what keeps him awake at night is whether the US is prepared for something very big – like a massive earthquake and tsunami.
Preparing for the worst on Sunday Extra Separate stories podcast with Hugh Riminton on RN
“Subduction-zone earthquakes operate on the…[principle that] one enormous problem causes many other enormous problems.” — Kathryn Schulz, The Really Big One
In her Pulitzer Prize–winning article “The Really Big One,” New Yorker staff writer Kathryn Schulz tells the story of the worst natural disaster in the history of North America. According to scientists, on or about January 26, 1700, a massive earthquake in the Pacific Northwest ripped a gash in the earth’s crust along a line from Vancouver Island in Canada south nearly six hundred miles into Northern California, causing massive devastation.
A massive earthquake in the Pacific Northwest ripped a gash in the earth’s crust, causing massive devastation
The geological record indicates that these “great earthquakes” (those with a magnitude of eight or higher) occur in this area of the Pacific Northwest about every five hundred years on average.
In “The Really Big One”, Schulz describes for us the implications of this revelation. When it comes, the next Really Big One could impact an area of 140,000 square miles and devastate major population centers like Seattle and Tacoma in Washington, and Portland, Eugene, and Salem in Oregon. Seven million people could be cast into this parallel universe, of which nearly 13,000 people could die and another 27,000 could be injured. When it happens, we would need to provide shelter for a million displaced people, and food and water for another two and a half million.
The following excerpt is what we call a worst-case scenario:
“When the Cascadia earthquake begins, there will be… a cacophony of barking dogs and a long, suspended, what-was-that moment before the surface waves arrive…
Soon after that shaking begins, the electrical grid will fail, likely everywhere west of the Cascades and possibly well beyond. If it happens at night, the ensuing catastrophe will unfold in darkness…
Anything indoors and unsecured will lurch across the floor or come crashing down: bookshelves, lamps, computers, canisters of flour in the pantry. Refrigerators will walk out of kitchens, unplugging themselves and toppling over. Water heaters will fall and smash interior gas lines. Houses that are not bolted to their foundations will slide off…
Other, larger structures will also start to fail… across the region, something on the order of a million buildings will collapse…
The shaking from the Cascadia quake will set off landslides throughout the region—up to thirty thousand of them in Seattle alone… It will also induce a process called liquefaction, whereby seemingly solid ground starts behaving like a liquid, to the detriment of anything on top of it… Together, the sloshing, sliding, and shaking will trigger fires, flooding, pipe failures, dam breaches, and hazardous-material spills. Any one of these second-order disasters could swamp the original earthquake in terms of cost, damage, or casualties—and one of them definitely will.
Four to six minutes after the dogs start barking, the shaking will subside. For another few minutes, the region, upended, will continue to fall apart on its own.
Then the wave will arrive, and the real destruction will begin.”
Never tell me the odds
The odds of a big Cascadia earthquake happening in the next fifty years are roughly one in three. The odds of the next Really Big One are roughly one in ten. Even those numbers do not fully reflect the danger—or, more to the point, how unprepared the Pacific Northwest is to face it.
We should pause for moment to take all of this in. The enormity of this breathtaking scenario makes it difficult to contemplate fully. But contemplate, we must.
And then, after we have contemplated for a while, somebody needs to get to work. I have an idea: how about we build a Pacific Northwest Cascadia Subduction Earthquake and Tsunami Response Plan? The PNCSETRP (as I like to call it) would be massive and unprecedented, nothing less than a comprehensive, proactive, integrated, and all-of-nation plan.
How about we build a Pacific Northwest Cascadia Subduction Earthquake and Tsunami Response Plan?
Although it sounds complicated, all you really need to do is to put all the people who would be responsible for a Pacific Northwest Cascadia subduction earthquake and tsunami response in the middle of an imagined Cascadia subduction earthquake and tsunami to figure things out ahead of time, instead of in the fog of war.
Thanks to Kathryn Schulz’s elegant scientific narrative we have an incredibly detailed imagined disaster to work with.
So, let’s do that now. Let’s imagine that it’s 2:35 p.m. on a rainy Saturday afternoon in March and the next Really Big One hits.
We need to think through exactly what that would look like
We need to quantify the unprecedented surge that the crisis will bring. We need to understand, in as much fine-grained, colorful detail as possible, that enormous problem that causes so many other enormous problems. We need to list all of the issues that we—the United States and the world—would be dealing with as that Saturday afternoon turns into a long Saturday night. We need to think about the people—the seniors, the individuals with disabilities, the children and families—who would be trapped inside that parallel universe.
Instead of trying to think through these things then, we need to do it now, so that we know what we will tell them about when we are going to reach them. About how we are working across 140,000 square miles of affected area to rescue people from collapsed buildings, pump out the water, get power and cell phone service back, and clear the streets. About how we are providing shelter for a million displaced people, and food and water for another two and a half million.
To be able to do these things then, we need to get to work now.
We must travel through the wormhole and into that parallel universe, to spend as much time as possible in the Pacific Northwest on that Saturday afternoon with those collapsed buildings, blocked roadways, stuck trains, trapped victims, dead and injured people, and debris in the streets. We must figure out everything we would have to do all at the same time, who is going to do it, and where we are going to get all of the stuff we will need to make it happen.
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but we are not doing this work today
Instead, in cities and states all over the Pacific Northwest, and the nation, disaster professionals sit around in small groups in carpeted conference rooms, using rational thought processes to write pieces of the plans about pieces of the job they think they own. And, by the way, these plans have been shown to work spectacularly well… in carpeted conference rooms.
Why do we instead sit in carpeted conference rooms with our cliques asking the same old questions?
There is no substitute for an integrated, all-of-nation planning process like the one described above. So why are we not doing it? Why do we instead sit in carpeted conference rooms with our cliques telling war stories, asking the same old questions, and speaking the same tired platitudes?
Why, instead of spending time trying to understand the enemy, do we clutter our minds with process and unrealistic expectations—so that we are surprised, caught off guard, when the realities that the crisis inevitably brings don’t fit our processes or expectations?
The quake was just 10km deep and about 155km east-southeast of the Loyalty Islands, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said on Wednesday.
Authorities in the South Pacific territory urged people to move to locations more than 300 metres distant from the shore, and if possible, to sites higher than 12 metres above sea level.
“We have set off the alarm on the exterior of New Caledonia but we don’t have any immediate assessment of potential damage,” said a spokeswoman for the Directorate for Civil Protection and Risk Management.
The government had recently endorsed the integrated working procedure to avail disaster victims with subsidised loan from banks and financial institutions.
The NRA will send one social mobiliser to each local level and one engineer to each district to help victims get loans to uplift their social and economic condition.
NRA Chief Executive Officer Sushil Gyewali said his office was trying to get assistance from the World Bank to send social mobilisers to each local level and engineers to each district. Social mobilisers will provide social and technical support to disaster victims and engineers will refer the victims to the concerned agencies for subsidised loan. The government came up with this policy as the previous plan to provide loan did not work properly.
The official death toll from the 7.5-magnitude quake that struck the west coast of the Sulawesi island stood at 1,374, many killed by tsunami waves triggered by the quake.
Time was running out on Wednesday for anyone trapped in the rubble of a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, five days after disaster struck, while increasingly angry survivors waited for an aid operation to move into high gear.
Adding to Sulawesi’s woes, the Soputan volcano in the north of the island, about 600km northeast of Palu, erupted early on Wednesday but there were no reports of any casualties or damage. Ash columns reached 4km into the air but were not expected to disrupt flights.
Steven Eberlein works for the American Red Cross Cascades Region – encouraging people to prepare for disasters, especially earthquakes.
His experience of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami left him grappling with this question: can a society adapt to a risk that it has never experienced before? He thinks so. His mission is to spark a preparedness movement in the Pacific Northwest that will save lives in the event of a Cascadia Subduction Zone 9M earthquake.
This frightening statement underscores the importance of business continuity planning and disaster preparedness particularly after the terrible 2017 Hurricane Season experienced in the Caribbean.
“Only one in twenty five business affected by severe disasters ever reopen the doors again”Two back to back category 5 Hurricanes, Irma and Maria, brings to the fore the importance of Insurance not just for homes and personal property, but for Businesses. At the Chamber 133rd Annual General Meeting it was revealed that in the region estimates are that only 20% of all buildings are insured and approximately 80% of that group are under insured.
Understanding how firms, large and small can mitigate their risks and give themselves a chance to regroup and continue in the event of disasters, natural or manmade is the purpose of a one day symposium being organized by the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture titled “Disaster Mitigation in a New Climate: Business Continuity and Insurance” on 8th May 2018 from 9:00am-3:30pm at the Finance Administrative Centre.
Natural disasters can reduce entire cities to rubble, leaving streets littered with debris, bodies and toxic material.
Modern warfare’s devastation also brings the hidden dangers of unexploded weapons, landmines and booby traps. Who clears up the wreckage of natural and man-made catastrophes and where does it go?
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria battered the Caribbean and the southern US throughout the last two months, killing dozens, shattering lives and leaving a trail of destruction behind them.
Then, in the middle of September, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit central Mexico causing dozens of buildings to collapse in Mexico City and beyond, trapping people beneath broken concrete and twisted metal.
Who clears up the wreckage of natural and man-made catastrophes and where does it go?
Continuing conflicts in the Middle East have also left thousands dead and major cities destroyed. Much of Mosul in Iraq has also been reduced to rubble and huge swathes of Syria’s Homs and Raqqa and the World Heritage City of Aleppo have been flattened.
The latest analysis of Aleppo, just completed by the UN’s satellite programme, UNOSAT, suggests more than 7,000 sites have been damaged in the Old City alone. Some witnesses describe rubble and wreckage piled to the top of buildings.
All these natural and man-made disasters have left behind millions of tonnes of debris. What will happen to it?
Globally, 80% of the largest cities are vulnerable to severe impacts from earthquakes, 60% are at risk from storm surges and tsunamis, and all face new impacts caused by climate change.
The cost of urban disasters during 2011 alone is estimated at over US $380 billion, with the largest impacts felt in Christchurch, New Zealand; Sendai, Japan; and Bangkok, Thailand. With 50% of the world’s population already in cities, and substantial urban population growth projected over the coming decades, there is a pressing need for new tools and approaches that strengthen local administrations and citizens to better protect human, economic, and natural assets of our towns and cities.
Resilience refers to the ability of human settlements to withstand and to recover quickly from any plausible hazards.
Resilience refers to the ability of human settlements to withstand and to recover quickly from any plausible hazards. Resilience against crises not only refers to reducing risks and damage from disasters (i.e. loss of lives and assets), but also the ability to quickly bounce back to a stable state. While typical risk reduction measures tend to focus on a specific hazard, leaving out risks and vulnerabilities due to other types of perils, the resilience approach adopts a multiple hazards approach, considering resilience against all types of plausible hazards. UN-Habitat’s goal is to increase the resilience of cities to the impacts of natural and human-made crises. One key pillar of this aim is ensuring that cities are able to withstand and recover quickly from catastrophic events.
Globally, 80% of the largest cities are vulnerable to severe impacts from earthquakes, 60% are at risk from storm surges and tsunamis, and all face new impacts caused by climate change.
Why resilience in cities?
Over the last decade, natural disasters affected more than 220 million people and caused economic damage of USD $100 million per year. The number of people affected by disasters since 1992 amounts to 4.4 billion people (equivalent to 64% of the world’s population), and economic damage amounts to roughly US $2.0 trillion (equivalent to 25 years of total Official Development Assistance). Cities hit by mega-disasters, such as Kobe or New Orleans, can take more than a decade to recover to their pre-disaster standards. Chronic and recurrent crises, as seen in the droughts in the Horn of Africa, require the root causes of crises be addressed, rather than only responding to the consequences.
Human-made disasters, such as conflicts and technological disasters, can also undermine the development gains of countries and cities. The number of people at risk is increasing significantly, with rapid urbanization inducing uncontrolled and densely populated informal settlements in hazard-prone areas. The lack of capacity of cities and local governments to regulate building standards and land use plans exacerbates the risk of those living in vulnerable conditions. Local governments are the closest level to citizens, and have a huge role to play in delivering critical infrastructure and services to protect lives and assets during crisis response. In sum, cities and local governments need to increase their capacity to reduce both the damage and the recovery period from any potential disaster.
What is UN-Habitat doing for resilience?
UN-Habitat’s goal is to increase the resilience of cities to the impacts of natural and human-made crises. In order to achieve this, UN-Habitat launched the City Resilience Profiling Programme (CRPP) to support local governments to build their capacity to improve resilience by developing a comprehensive and integrated urban planning and management approach, and tools for measuring and profiling city resilience to all types of hazards. A City Resilience Profile is a baseline assessment of a city-system’s ability to withstand and recover from any plausible hazard.
Turkish Catastrophe Insurance Pool issues second catastrophe bond
Straddling the Bosphorus, Istanbul is Turkey’s powerhouse, generating more than 40% of the country’s GDP. However, the 14 million people living and working in this vibrant metropolis live under constant threat of severe earthquakes, with the Northern Anatolian Fault running just south of the city beneath the Marmara Sea.
There is no telling when the next earthquake will strike. The government and businesses are acutely aware of the threat, and have already done a lot to strengthen the city’s resilience to destructive seismic activity.
Importantly, the government-sponsored Turkish Catastrophe Insurance Pool (TCIP) – managed by Eureko Sigorta – provides homeowners with compulsory earthquake insurance. In order to further strengthen the pool’s financial protection, TCIP has just sponsored a new USD 100m catastrophe bond.
Building relationships with the capital markets
The cat bond, known as Bosphorus Ltd. Series 2015-1 Class A, is the second of its kind. Providing a three-year cover as a derivative, the bond has a parametric trigger generating an immediate payout to TCIP if the agreed earthquake conditions are met. Complementing the existing traditional reinsurance program that Swiss Re also supports, the bond has an expected loss of 1.50% and pays an interest spread of 325 bps per annum to investors. The proceeds of the bond are invested in IBRD notes as collateral. Swiss Re Capital Markets acted as co-structurer for the transaction.
Andy Palmer, Senior ILS Structurer, explains that Turkey’s ability to transfer disaster risk to the international capital markets will help the country reduce pressure on government budgets and the broader economy in the event of a quake. Additionally, he adds, “Investors welcome this important sponsor back to the market, and recognise the diversification Turkey earthquake risk brings to their portfolios.”
Flooding in multiple communities in southern Ontario and Quebec in April and into May is estimated to cost “well into the millions of dollars (USD)” in economic losses,
The report points to “an abnormally wet month of April” in parts of southern Ontario and Quebec led to widespread flooding in multiple communities through the early portion of May. “A series of storm systems originating in the United States led to excessive rainfall that combined with melting winter snow to allow several rivers to overflow their banks,” the report said. “In Quebec alone, the government noted that more than 1,300 homes were inundated by flooding across 124 cities and towns.”
In the United States, insurers face a multi-billion dollar bill from April weather damage, with U.S. severe weather remaining the biggest driver of global insurance losses in 2017,
The most severe outbreak, from late April into early May, featured a complex and broad storm weather system that spawned violent tornadoes, straight-line winds, large hail and excessive rainfall, killing 20 people in parts of the Plains, Midwest, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Total economic losses from this event alone event were expected to exceed US$1 billion.
Elsewhere, Cyclone Debbie swept across parts of the South Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand from late March into the first weeks of April, killing at least 14 people. Eastern Australia was the worst impacted, with damage from high winds and widespread coastal and inland flooding resulting in an anticipated insured loss of US$970 million.
Other global natural hazard events during April included:
An ongoing weather phenomenon deemed a “coastal El Niño” led to relentless rainfall in parts of Colombia, killing an estimated 400 people in the Colombian town of Mocoa, and 17 people in Manizales after separate massive debris flows destroyed dozens of neighbourhoods. Total economic losses were estimated at tens of million in U.S. dollars;
Major flooding in northeast Bangladesh led to extensive agricultural damage in excess of US$350 million. Similar levels of flooding in Iran killed 48 people and caused damage beyond US$353 million;
Frigid temperatures and frost across central Europe inflicted severe crop damage. Preliminary combined losses to vineyards and orchards alone were expected to reach into the hundreds of millions in U.S. dollars; and
A series of earthquakes struck the northern Philippines from April 4 to 9, causing damage to roughly 5,000 homes, schools and other buildings in multiple provinces. Economic losses were estimated in the millions in U.S. dollars.