Update on Recovery in Christchurch, N.Z.

According to a news report, the city of Christchurch has adopted the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Plan; December 1, 2011.  For updated versions of the Infrastructure Strategy, go to this website.  For more information about the recovery process, check out this additional site.

See also this article about Christchurch being one of the 9 Cities to Watch in the Future. Dec. 2, 2011.

Short-term Recovery Activities in Japan


Image via Wikipedia

From the Herald Sun of Australia. April 27, 2011,  some details on the debris removal process and a novel idea for use of debris.

Japanese workers face threats from asbestos, dioxins in clean-up. JAPANESE workers tackling the Herculean task of clearing millions of tonnes of debris from last month’s earthquake and tsunami also face health risks from asbestos and dioxins. The destruction wrought by the March 11 calamity is so enormous that just removing the rubble is expected to take years.

Clearing away an estimated 25 million tonnes of wreckage is a vital step in allowing victims to move on after the disaster, which left more than 14,500 dead and 11,500 missing in Japan’s worst catastrophe since World War II. “This is an enormous task,” said Matoko Iokibe, chairman of the Reconstruction Design Council which advises the prime minister, and who suggested the rubble could be turned into landscaped hills.

“In normal times people would be able to use these parks for recreation,” he said. “During disasters, they would be used as evacuation zones.” Most workers now struggling through the sea of toppled trucks, twisted steel and tortured concrete wear face masks to protect themselves as best they can from inhaling toxic and carcinogenic asbestos-laden dust. “The biggest concerns are dirt, sand and building dust that can be inhaled and cause abnormalities in the lungs,” said Sendai city official Tetsuo Ishii.

Japan Recovery Likely to Take Decades – 2 articles

Operation Tomodachi [Image 2 of 4]

Image by DVIDSHUB via Flickr

Clearly, the recent cascade of disasters in Japan will have a protracted recovery. According to a CNN article, Japan faces lengthy recovery from Fukushima accident, April 22, 2011.

The worst may have passed in the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl, but cleaning up when it’s finally over is likely to take decades and cost Japan an untold fortune.

A six- to nine-month horizon for winding down the crisis, laid out by plant owner Tokyo Electric Power this week, is justthe beginning. Near the end of that timeline, Japan’s government says it will decide when — or whether — the nearly80,000 people who were told to flee their homes in the early days of the disaster can return. Friday marks six weeks since the March 11 magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that triggered the crisis. Some of those who have already spent six weeks in emergency housing … say they don’t expect to return to what was home.

Many of those displaced by the disaster have spent a month living in government shelters — sometimes just gyms — and are running low on money. Tokyo Electric has promised to make a down payment on compensation of 1 million yen (about $12,000) per household, with the intention of sending out checks by late April. Another 66,000 have been told to prepare for evacuations in towns where radiation readings are at levels that couldincrease the long-term risk of cancer for anyone who stays. That will certainly add to what is likely to be a staggering tab for the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric, the country’s largest utility.”We are mobilizing our resources in order to tackle the situation, to relieve the burdens on those people who have evacuated from the area,” Cabinet spokesman Noriyuki Shikata said. “We know that it’s going to cost a quite significant amount. But at this juncture, I don’t think we have come to a specific kind of budget size.”

Another article with the same theme was published by Reuters on April 24, with some details about the preliminary blueprint being used for recovery planning.

Aftermath of a Disaster: Stay and Rebuild or Relocate?

Location Map of Otsuchi in Iwate Prefecture, Japan

Image via Wikipedia

Here is a snapshot of what residents face in one badly-damaged Japanese community. Quake-hit Japanese city in danger of dying. CNN, March 25

As of October 2009, 15,590 called Otsuchi home, according to the city. The Iwate prefectural police say, so far, the death toll stands at 504 people, with 1,048 missing. The police caution that the numbers are likely not accurate, because the tsunami wiped out entire families in Otsuchi, so there’s no one to report missing or dead people. Almost 6,000 people are homeless.  The choice to stay or go is complicated by the loss of the city’s leaders.

On the day of the disaster, Otsuchi’s city hall turned into a rapid command post. The mayor, 69-year-old Kohki Kato, led the charge to set up the command center outside the city hall, minutes after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck.
The mayor and his government had warning the tsunami was coming and evacuated to the second floor of the city hall, believing they were safe. The tsunami swallowed nearly the entire building except for the rooftop, where some of the city workers stood. More than half of the city’s leaders are dead or missing. Among those killed was Mayor Kato.

After the tsunami, a gas explosion erupted and a fire swept through the town, reducing the rubble to charred metal

Mismatch of Reality and Glib Opinions of Pundits:

The harsh reality of this situation suggests that recovery for some communities may take many years, if not one or more decades.  Yet many of the “experts” interviewed on TV shows, such as CNN, talk about the recovery– for all of Japan — from one to 5 years. Even a World Bank report states 5 years.  Many of those interviewed are from the world of finance and business, and of course their orientation is to focus on those aspects.  Since all too few people are experts in long-term recovery, for large cities and for nations, we are not getting the full picture, in my view.

Sadly, we lack a cohesive body of recovery theory and also lack a knowledge base of case studies of recovery, so there is no objective basis for discussing the duration of the recovery process for complex disaster events.

N.Y. University teaches recovery and reconstruction courses

Looking north at entry of NYU building at 11 W...

Image via Wikipedia

Born of 9/11, an Effort to Rebuild Shattered Haiti, N.Y. Times, March 2, describes a fascinating academic program, one that no one I know in the research community seems to know about. Seems like a great idea to teach those majoring in the development and real estate fields something about planning long-term recovery from disasters. Hopefully, the concept will spread to other universities.  Here are some of the details from the article.

Mr. Stuckey, who in 2009 was appointed a dean of the Schack Institute of Real Estate at New York University, *** started to think how he could teach students the lessons he learned after 9/11. The result was a course on postcatastrophe reconstruction, now in its second semester, where students devise building plans, work on environmental and social issues, and create financing models for real-world projects.

The devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, provided an opportunity to put Mr. Stuckey’s theory into practice. Starting last fall, students at the Schack Institute began assisting on three development projects there.

The magnitude of the catastrophe in Haiti is unimaginable,” Mr. Stuckey said. “In that one 30-second earthquake, more people died than in the whole area impacted by the tsunami in Southeast Asia. Its grinding poverty, its proximity to the United States and the ability to get our feet on the ground quickly made it a perfect location for us to put our efforts to work.

Postcatastrophe reconstruction — which Mr. Stuckey defines as the period following a disaster from Week 2 to Year 5 — is an emerging field in development circles, and it gained momentum after the tsunami that shook Indonesia in 2004. While many organizations focus on disaster preparedness and the emergency humanitarian efforts that crop up immediately after the event, “there is a void that occurs in the interim period,” Mr. Stuckey said. “After the humanitarian aid ends, how do you transition to the rebuilding stage?

Unfortunately, the University’s website does not provide any details or any additional information.  I guess the reporter dug it out of them!!

Thanks to Bill Cumming for pointing out this article.