2011 Vol. 2, No. 1

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Avoiding the Avoidable: Towards a European Heat Waves Risk Governance
Wiebke Lass, Armin Haas, Jochen Hinkel, Carlo Jaeger
2011, 2(1): 1-14. doi: 10.1007/s13753-011-0001-z
The death toll of recent heat waves in developed countries has been remarkably high, contradicting the common assumption that high levels of economic and technological development automatically lead to lower vulnerability to weather extremes. Future climate change may further increase this vulnerability. In this article we examine some recent evidence of heat wave-related mortality and we conclude that while economic wealth and technological capacity might be a necessary condition for adequately coping with adverse climate change effects, they are not sufficient. Questions of awareness, preparedness, organizational issues, and actor networks have to be addressed in a proactive and focused manner in order to avoid future heat wave damages. We propose some practical consequences for heat wave adaptation measures by adopting a risk governance framework that can be universally applied, as it is sufficiently flexible to deal with the multi-level and often fragmented reality of existing coping measures.
Common Criteria for the Assessment of Critical Infrastructures
Alexander Fekete
2011, 2(1): 15-24. doi: 10.1007/s13753-011-0002-y
Society is reliant on infrastructure services, such as information and communication technology, energy, water, and food supply, but also on governmental, cultural, and search and rescue organizations. The goal of project KritisKAT at the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance in Germany is the development of generic criteria for the identification and evaluation of infrastructures regarded as "critical" for society. Acknowledging that full protection against all threats and cascading effects is not possible, the approach focuses on the impacts rather than the prevention of threats. The development of generic criteria requires the prioritization of infrastructures and identification of their key characteristics for civil protection purposes, risk management activities, and strategic proactive planning. For this purpose, the development of a national critical infrastructure priority inventory is based on a thorough examination of the range of criteria typically used in similar approaches. The specific focus of this paper is to identify and simplify essential characteristics of infrastructure criticality. The main outcome of this study is the development of common criteria generally applicable to a variety of infrastructures.
Haiti 2010 Earthquake-How to Explain Such Huge Losses?
Laurent Hou, Peijun Shi
2011, 2(1): 25-33. doi: 10.1007/s13753-011-0003-x
This article provides an overview of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January 2010, with emphasis on the disaster losses. This catastrophic event has entered world history as one of the most destructive earthquakes on record. Yet, we only have a very incomplete idea of the losses it caused. Conflicting estimates have been published by different institutions, organizations, and individuals. The article tries to present the reasons why this event, which was a strong but not an exceptional earthquake, has caused so much devastation.
The 2011 Eastern Japan Great Earthquake Disaster: Overview and Comments
Okada Norio, Tao Ye, Yoshio Kajitani, Peijun Shi, Hirokazu Tatano
2011, 2(1): 34-42. doi: 10.1007/s13753-011-0004-9
This article briefly reviews the causes and impacts of the massive eastern Japan earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, and comments on the response measures taken by Japan to cope with this devastating disaster. Mass losses occurred mostly because the intensity of the quake and the induced tsunami exceeded local coping capacity. Particularly, the nuclear power plant crisis triggered by the tsunami significantly increased the short- and long-term impacts of the disaster. While the coping capacity Japanese society built after the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji great earthquake tremendously mitigated the damages, there is room for improvement despite Japan's great efforts in this disaster. Investigating the tsunami preparedness of the coastal nuclear power plants is an issue of paramount importance. In response to future large-scale disasters, there is an urgent need for a highly collaborative framework based on which all available resources could be mobilized; a mutual assistance and rescue system against catastrophes among regions and countries on the basis of international humanitarian aid; and further in-depth research on the multi-hazard and disaster-chain phenomenon in large-scale disasters and corresponding governance approaches.
Response to a High-Altitude Earthquake: The Yushu Earthquake Example
Jifu Liu, Yida Fan, Peijun Shi
2011, 2(1): 43-53. doi: 10.1007/s13753-011-0005-8
At 07:49, 14 April 2010, the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai Province on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China was struck by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake, with the epicenter located at 33.1° N and 96.7° E and at an altitude of 4300 m, and an epicentral intensity of Modified Mercalli scale IX. It was the first strong earthquake that struck the high-altitude, hypoxia-prone Tibetan plateau primarily inhabited by ethnic minorities since the founding of the People's Republic of China, which has caused a huge loss of lives and property and adversely impacted the economic and social development of the area. The 2010 Yushu Earthquake was an earthquake disaster with the greatest destruction, widest spatial extent, and greatest difficulty for relief efforts in the history of Yushu, involving 19 townships in six counties of the prefecture. As verified by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Public Security, and the Yushu Prefecture Government, the earthquake killed 2698 people and caused government agencies to list 270 missing persons, who were mostly in Jiegu Town of Yushu County. The earthquake also caused a direct economic loss of RMB 44 billion Yuan. The severe environmental conditions in Yushu and limited infrastructural support for disaster relief to remediate the impacts on the earthquake victims were also rare in the history of earthquake disaster relief. This article focuses on the characteristics of the high-altitude Yushu Earthquake assessment and response, and summarizes the experiences and lessons of government and society in responding to this earthquake. The assessment of and response to the Yushu Earthquake will provide helpful references for high plateau earthquake response in the future.