Christchurch, NZ – quake analyses are yielding some unique results

Christchurch Earthquake 22/02/11

Image by geoftheref via Flickr

In an article titled Sobering alarm for cities on faultline; the Press (NZ), Nov. 2, 2011, describes some unusual geologic conditions and sounds and alarm for cities on faultlines.  In the report, it quotes Erol Kalkan, manager of the United States Geological Survey’s national strong-motion network, said the February earthquake was “remarkable on several counts”.  Some quotes from the report:

“The ground motion was much larger than previously recorded, the high intensity of  shaking was greater than expected, particularly for a moderate-size earthquake, and the liquefaction-induced damage was extensive and severe within the central business district of Christchurch.

“Many urban areas are built over soft sediments and in valleys or over basins, for example the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles metropolitan. These are urban areas that sit atop geological features that may exaggerate or amplify ground motion, just as Christchurch experienced.

“The question is how to apply or account for such significant, higher-than-expected ground motions, as seen in Christchurch.”  The Christchurch quake would have a long-lasting and significant impact on engineering practices and provided a huge opportunity to fuel scientific knowledge, Kalkan said.

GNS Science’s John Callan said the quantity and quality of data collected during the quake was “almost unprecedented internationally”. “Analysis of this data is already having a significant impact on seismology worldwide.”



Queensland, Australia – new recovery organization created

Queensland, Australia

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I read that about 70% of the entire population of Queensland, Australia has been affected by the recent floods and cyclone.  Today in the Wall St. Journal that indicate that a new organization has been created to deal with the recovery process.  This article is a bit brief, but I expect more details will be known in the coming days.

One more article from the Adelaide newspaper, Feb. 7.  The issues surely do sound familiar – how to spend large amounts of money efficiently and effectively……

In Queensland, Australia the focus on recovery from Cyclone Yasi begins

Cyclone Yasi

From ABC news in Australia, we get the following details about the beginning of recovery planning.  Some pictures of the cyclone aftermath can be seen here.

Earthquake Recovery in New Zealand – update

John Key, leader of the New Zealand National Party

Image via Wikipedia

Nice to see that both officials in New Zealand and those at the East Asian Summit are interested in how best to proceed with recovery planning and what lessons can be captured and shared. World Leaders Quiz John Key over Canterbury Quake. October 30. NZ site:

Some related information, about collaboration in disaster management that occurred at that summit can be found on this related website.

ChristChurch, NZ Earthquake – update

Earthquake damage - dairy

Image by martinluff via Flickr

As noted two days ago in this blog, the contrast between the outcomes of the same-size earthquakes in NZ and Haiti is stark.  Here is a discussion of one of the reasons for the difference. Building code saves NZ from serious destruction; Radio Australia, Sept. 6.

As we’ve heard in earlier reports, many New Zealanders are assessing the damage from the weekend’s earthquake. Jeff Crosier, is a structural and earthquake engineer from consulting firm Miyamoto International. While the New Zealand earthquake was larger than the one which devastated Haiti earlier this year, killing 200 thousand people, Mr Crosier says it is surprising how little damage has been caused in Christchurch.

One more explanation: Why the N.Z. quake is no Haiti. MSNBC, Sept. 6.

On the downside, more than 100 aftershocks have occurred, some of which are sizable.  It appears that the structure damage and the no. of badly damaged homes is growing.  To call New Zealand seismically active is an understatement.  According to a NY Times article on Sept. 6,

New Zealand sits above an area where two tectonic plates collide. The country records more than 14,000 earthquakes a year — but only about 150 are felt by residents. Fewer than 10 a year do any damage. New Zealand’s last major earthquake registered magnitude 7.8 and hit South Island’s Fiordland region on July 16, 2009, moving the southern tip of the country 12 inches (30 centimeters) closer to Australia.

Regarding the financial aspects of the recovery, the existence of insurance funds for residential reconstruction is an unusual feature.  Nevertheless, the national government will have to assist public entities as is true in the U.S. system. See UPDATE: New Zealand Building Shares Rally After Quake; Bonds Weaken; Wall St. Journal, Sept. 7.

Disaster News – Sept. 4

Today, the news is relatively  good regarding  the amount of damaged caused by Hurricane Earl in the Atlantic seaboard.  More details are coming in about the earthquakes ( 7.0 and lesser aftershocks)  near Christ Church, NZ.  Early damage photos on CNN make it seem like a miracle no one was killed.

Pakistan – disaster recovery under extreme conditions and great scrutiny

As noted here many times, the recovery process is a complex one and one that is hard to accomplish in the U.S.  When the U.S. participates in the international response to a major to catastrophic disaster in another sovereign nation – especially underdeveloped ones,  such as Haiti or Pakistan — the problems grow almost at a logarythmic  rate.  Added to all of the elements of recovery are issues of morality, strategic significance, and existential concerns.  An opinion piece in the Wash. Post highlights some of these added concerns. Pakistan flood relief is in America’s strategic interest, Sept. 1, 2010.

The challenge for the Obama administration and other governments is to develop new mechanisms — similar to those, perhaps, that the United Nations has devised for rebuilding Haiti after its earthquake in January — that would enable relief and reconstruction with maximum transparency and honesty. If this is done successfully, the Pakistani government and its international allies, the United States included, could gain prestige in the eyes of a skeptical people. The alternative is a vacuum that extreme Islamist groups are already attempting to fill.  The American people must be there when the floodwaters recede. The moral justification is compelling enough. But the strategic rationale is real, too.

A related report, well written and compelling, was issued by the U.S. Institute of Peace, on August 17th, titled: Flooding Challenges Pakistan’s Government and the International Community. It makes a somewhat different case for the U.S. aid to Pakistan, highlighting the link between disaster recovery and peacebuilding.  A notable observation in that report is:

Unfortunately, disaster management priorities are often focused on immediate visible results rather than the less tangible and long-term goals of stable peace, good governance, and sustainable development. Saving lives is undoubtedly essential. At the same time, how disasters are managed can have a long-term impact on the conflict context. Disaster managers must ensure that short-term interventions also carry positive long-term impacts on societies that have already experienced considerable suffering.

Additional article, posted on Sept. 2, is well worth reading.  It deals primarily with the digital media and the mechanics of providing assistance to Pakistan, providing a very interesting contrast with the Haiti catastrophic earthquake earlier this year. See A Month In, Pakistan Flood Relief Efforts Stuck at 1.0, in Wired magazine .

Pakistan – concerns about violence and militancy

This past week, several significant reports were issued that deal with the enormous importance of an effective and efficient recovery process in Pakistan.  Three of the best ones I found are:

Floods expose civilian-military divide in Pakistan

Massive flooding in Pakistan appears to be draining support for the already-weak civilian government while boosting the powerful military, a blow to U.S. and domestic hopes for a strong Pakistani democracy capable of undercutting the allure of al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Flooding Challenges Pakistan’s Government and the International Community, US Institute of Peace, August 17

Natural disasters are social as well as environmental events. The poor and marginalized members of society suffer the most. Marginalization is one of the root causes of violence and militancy in Pakistan. • As the government of Pakistan responds to the suffering of its people and the damage to the environment and infrastructure, it should seek to provide relief and recovery assistance in ways that contribute to ameliorating marginalization.

Natural Disasters and Insecurity in Pakistan; Introduction and links, via the Homeland Security Digital Library, August 19. Direct link to Congressional Service Report, Security and The Environment in Pakistan. August 3, 2010. Note that this report was published shortly before the massive flooding, yet it warns about numerous natural hazards and other threats that Pakistan faced.  The implications for long-term recovery are highly significant.

The long-view on the Gulf Oil Spill

Scientists Dispute Government Stance on the Lingering Effects of Gulf Oil. ProPublica,  August 17, 2010.

…scientists seemed, on the whole, rather skeptical when a government report said most of the oil from BP’s well was gone from the Gulf of Mexico. [1] Now the pushback against the government’s stance has grown, with several scientific reports released this week.

Restoring the Gulf. editorial in NY Times, August 18.  Note: this author commented more than a  month ago on this blog that the job Mr. Mabus was assigned is not a part-time position.

The Catastrophic Flooding in Pakistan – extent still not clear

Although the flooding has gone on for weeks, somehow the full scale and impact of the catastrophic flooding has not been effectively communicated to the world at large.See Death toll rises from Pakistan flooding, CNN, August 16. In actuality, the numbers of people affected are staggering and the response and recovery are hampered by the continuing flooding.  Some key facts:

  • The death toll from flooding that has ravaged Pakistan for more than two weeks is up to 1,463;
  • More than 895,200 houses have been damaged, and more than 2,000 people have been injured;
  • One-fifth of the country is under water. Roughly 900,000 are homeless as a result of the catastrophe
  • Thousands of towns and villages (estimated at 4,000) have been washed away.
  • U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said …that while he has visited sites of natural disasters around the world, he has never seen anything like the devastation created by flooding in Pakistan.
  • He said the disaster is worse than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 2005 Pakistani earthquake combined.

A thoughtful and comprehensive look at the longer-term impacts, including the stability of the country are examined in this NYTimes article: Floods Could Have Lasting Impact for Pakistan. N.Y. Times. If in fact this flood disaster is greater than the two most recent Asian catastrophic disasters noted above, are the capabilities of the international community sufficient to effectively assist? Add to that concern the political importance of Pakistan to the U.S.  This is a catastrophic disaster that bears careful watching.