Tag Archives: NaturalDisasters

Strong quakes strike off South Pacific islands

NNA – A series of strong earthquakes struck off the neighbouring South Pacific Ocean states of Samoa and Tonga on Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said, just hours after a major tremor rattled Papua New Guinea to the west.

A number of 6.8 magnitude quakes struck southwest of the Samoan capital Apia, in waters between the two island states of Tonga and Samoa.

Residents in Samoa told Reuters there were no reports of damage and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said there was no tsunami threat. Police in Samoa and Tonga told Reuters there were no reports of damage.

The quakes came just hours after a major 7.7 quake struck off the coast of Papua New Guinea, near the town of Rabaul, in the country’s northeast.

A tsunami warning was issued soon after the PNG quake, though the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said no destructive, Pacific-wide tsunami was expected. — REUTERS


Terror in Tunisia

The cradle of the Arab Spring–and its best exemplar–was beset by a vicious terror attack on tourists at a museum. 19 people were killed, including 17 tourists. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. “While Tunisia has been spared the catastrophic levels of violence that have plagued other Arab Spring countries like Syria, Yemen and Libya, the country has still suffered from occasional but deadly attacks carried out by Islamist extremists. In 2013, 22 people were killed. This included a suicide bomber who attacked a beach resort in Sousse. Last year 45 people were killed and already this year the death toll has reached 23, with Wednesday’s museum raid following an attack on a mountain checkpoint in February that killed 4 police officers.” (BBC http://bbc.in/1Cx27Bv)

What the Israeli Elections Mean for the Prospects of Peace and the Two State Solution…If you have 15 minutes and want to understand what happened in Israel, how damaging it is to Palestinian aspirations, and what’s next for supporters of the Two State Solution listen to this Global Dispatches Podcast episode—> http://bit.ly/1Cx0W53

The USA may send marines to assist in cyclone ravaged Vanuatu (Stars and Stripes http://1.usa.gov/1Cx0ljU)

Dodge this allegation…The EU watchdog has accused the union’s bank of flouting its own transparency rules and hiding what it knows about allegations of tax avoidance by a Zambian mining firm largely owned by the Swiss commodity trader Glencore. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1MKhfgc)

(Not So Humanity Affirming) Stat of the Day: The death toll in the world’s most brutal conflicts climbed by more than 28 percent last year from 2013 with bloodshed in Syria worse than all others for the second year running, according to a study released on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1923CK8)


Hopes of an end to South Sudan’s 15-month old civil war were dealt another blow on Wednesday as President Salva Kiir ruled out a proposed power-sharing deal with rebels. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1923RVu) 

Nigeria has begun the “final onslaught” against Boko Haram, the country’s national security spokesman said on Tuesday, after the militants were ousted from the strategic town of Bama. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ErdHch)

The Nigerian military, battling insurgency in the northeast, has had no news of more than 200 girls abducted 11 months ago by Boko Haram Islamists, the army chief said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1FAXq99)

Pro-democracy activists from Senegal and Burkina Faso arrested in Democratic Republic of Congo on suspicion of planning to destabilise the country will be expelled and banned from returning, the government announced Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1923V7L)

A withdrawal of peacekeepers from Sudan’s Darfur region should not be conditional on an end to tribal violence, Sudan said as Khartoum began work with the United Nations and the African Union on an exit strategy for the $1.1 billion mission. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1ErdGoN)

Lesotho’s new Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili was sworn in on Tuesday, admitting the tiny country faces major challenges after an alleged coup bid last year. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1FAXjKz)

A lack of accountability in South Sudan for “atrocities, sexual and gender based violence, child soldier recruitment and mass graves” hinders a bid for peace in the world’s youngest state, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FAXwgU)

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer whose economy was battered by a low-level civil war and ensuing political unrest, should see double-digit growth this year, Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1ErdPbG)

Sierra Leone’s president on Wednesday fired his vice president, who was kicked out of their political party earlier this month on accusations of fomenting violence and trying to form a new party. (AP http://yhoo.it/1923I4o)

Four people died in a gun and grenade attack on Wajir town in northeast Kenya, the latest in a series of cross-border raids by Somalia’s Shebab militants, officials said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BV3aZK)

Tanzania will receive a total of $380 million in loans from India to finance two major water projects in the east African nation, the president’s office said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FAXiq9)

Liberia has managed to get its outbreak under control. But many residents, especially those in northern Lofa County, which was devastated by Ebola, are concerned the deadly virus might make a comeback through visitors from neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea, which are not yet Ebola free. (VOA http://bit.ly/1H2fwCy)

Gabon’s striking public sector workers have rejected a temporary pay rise proposed by the government, trade unions said Wednesday, in a dispute that has already seen schools closed for over a month. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1MKhgAH)


Palestinian leaders on Wednesday called for international pressure on Israel and support for their unilateral moves towards statehood after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election win. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1923R7V)

Syria’s military took control of a village north of partly insurgent-held Aleppo on Wednesday, state media and a monitoring group said, giving it increased control of an area which armed groups have used as a supply route into the city. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1923Qkj)

The United States still wants a negotiated political settlement in Syria that excludes President Bashar al-Assad, and its position on the Syrian leader has not changed, top U.S. envoy John Allen told Turkish officials. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1923LNx)

Iraqi troops and militias who pushed Islamic State fighters from the northern town of Amerli last September proceeded to loot and burn down homes and businesses, Human Rights Watch said in a new report Wednesday. (VOA http://bit.ly/1H2fv1o


International aid agencies ramped up appeals for cyclone-hit Vanuatu on Wednesday, warning that the powerful storm which affected more than two-thirds of the South Pacific island nation had wiped out crops and destroyed fishing fleets, raising the risk of hunger and disease. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FAXu8P)

Bloody conflict in a remote corner of northern Myanmar has spilled violently across the border with China, risking a rift with the mighty neighbour and threatening peace efforts with an array of rebels. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ErdOon)

The head of India’s Catholic bishops, speaking out after a nun was raped in the east of the country last week, has said the country should be as concerned about the welfare of its people as it is about its cows. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BV3mIy)

The United Nations’ human rights chief is voicing concern over the “rushed” trial that led to a terrorism conviction and 13-year jail term for the Maldives’ former president. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BV3bNn)

General Motors will slash production in Russia and pull its mass-market Opel brand completely in the face of plummeting sales in the economically troubled country. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BV3gk4)

A group of Thai lawyers called on Wednesday for an investigation into allegations that four suspects held over a Bangkok bomb attack were tortured while in police custody. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1923L01)

A court in Bangladesh’s capital on Wednesday indicted a leader of a hard-line Islamist group and seven students in the hacking death of an atheist blogger two years ago. (AP http://yhoo.it/1923OJg)

The Americas

Brazilian civil defense officials say more than 20,000 people have been affected by flooding in the city of Boca do Acre in Brazil’s northern state of Amazonas. (AP http://yhoo.it/1ErdHJu)

Puerto Rico’s government said Tuesday that it has sold $246 million in bond anticipation notes to refinance part of its short-term debt and help generate more money for the financially strapped island. (AP http://yhoo.it/1ErdJ3X)

Leaders from leftist Latin American regional bloc ALBA gathered Tuesday for a summit in Caracas, a show of support for Venezuela in its mounting standoff with the United States. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1FAXtBK)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s popularity fell to a new low in a poll released on Wednesday, weakening her even further at a time when she is facing public calls for her impeachment and trying to push austerity measures through Congress. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1923N8c)

…and the rest

Violent clashes between anti-capitalist activists and German police left dozens injured and a trail of destruction in Germany’s financial capital as the European Central Bank opened its new headquarters on Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1FAXFB6)

A long-term study has pointed to a link between breastfeeding and intelligence. (BBC http://bbc.in/1H2frik)


Seven women peacemakers who should be on your radar (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1xeZD8W)

Why is Britain such an outlier on aid? (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1MKl6tN)

Does the Development Industry really need new clothes? (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/1MKkx36)

Why Investors Should Think Twice before Investing in Coal in India – Part 1 (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/1CtsOVZ)

Ghana’s democracy is driving great progress in health and education (Guardian http://bit.ly/1H2fsmb) 

After Israel’s elections, what prospects for Middle East peace process? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1MKgKTl)

How can we empower women in agriculture to end hunger? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1MKhhon)

Rape in Conflict: Speaking Out for What’s Right (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/1CtsOW7)

New DfID Report: Few Donor-Supported Anticorruption Policies Effective (Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1MKkwMt)

Water, security, and the state (Reinventing Peace http://bit.ly/1MKkPH8)



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‘Health at very center of disaster risk reduction,’ say UN agency officials in Sendai

15 March 2015 – The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, powerful storms in the Asia-Pacific region and ongoing conflicts in Syria and elsewhere are all stark reminders that health and stronger health system capacities must be central to the new framework for managing disaster risk currently being discussed in Sendai, Japan, senior United Nations health agency officials emphasized today.

&#8220If we’re going to come out of emergencies in good shape, we’re going to have to go into them with healthier, more resilient populations,&#8221 said Dr. Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director General for Emergencies at the UN World Health Organization (WHO), briefing reporters in Sendai at the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Noting that the aim of the current conference, which opened yesterday and wraps up Wednesday 18 March, is to agree a new set of measures for managing disaster risk to reduce mortality and curb economic losses and which will succeed the landmark 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), Dr. Aylward said thus far, health appears to be featuring very prominently in the current negotiations.

&#8220This framework is very different from what we saw in Hyogo because its not just about protecting people’s health but the recognition that health is at the very centre of disaster risk reduction, he said, alongside Ciro Ugarte, Director, Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief at WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas, Alex Ross, Director of WHO’s Kobe Centre, and Remi Sogunro, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) Officer-in-Charge in Liberia.

&#8220Health and disaster risk reduction are deeply connected; healthy people are resilient people and resilient people recover more quickly from disasters,&#8221 continued Dr. Aylward, who is also Special Representative to the WHO Director General on Elba, stressing that while the HFA had included only three references to health, the current framework contained some 30 mentions and spoke specifically to risks associated with epidemics and pandemics.

West Africa’s current Ebola crisis, along with Typhoon Haiyan, which wreaked havoc in the Philippine archipelago in 2013, and ongoing conflict in countries such as Syria and the Central African Republic have all made it plainly clear that health must be a central concern.

He said that WHO is uniquely placed within the UN system to ensure the new framework deals effectively with health matters. In Sendai, the agency will spotlighting several key initiatives, including: a policy framework WHO and its regional partners had put together to help them take the post-2015 framework and translate it into concrete actions for ministries of health; and efforts to ensure multi-hazard early warning measures and capacities are bolstered to be able to detect, report and respond to disease outbreaks and pandemics quickly and more effectively.

The agency has also fast-tracked its ‘hospital safety index’ to be ready for launch in Sendai. This tool, explained Dr. Aylward, lays out 151 specific indicators for governments and health ministries. It provides a snapshot of the probability that a hospital or health facility will continue to function in emergency situations, based on structural, nonstructural and functional factors, including the environment and the health services network to which it belongs.

Here, he noted that when Typhoon Ruby struck the Philippines last year, no medical facilities had been lost, largely because of lessons learned and measures put in place after Haiyan, which had destroyed some 600 health facilities.

&#8220But this is about more than buildings,&#8221 Dr. Aylward said, stressing that managing disaster risk also includes ensuring entire health systems can function properly and effectively in the wake of crisis, outbreaks or pandemics.

Echoing this, Mr. Ugarte said the WHO index and similar measures aimed to address the real fact that in many cases, hospitals are lost exactly when critical services are needed. &#8220We have to move from theory to practice,&#8221 he continued, adding that efforts should be made, as had been the case in Japan in the wake of multiple natural disasters, to focus on the facilities that will have to remain operational &#8220no matter what.&#8221

Indeed, the experts stressed, resilient health systems can reduce underlying vulnerability, protect health facilities and services, and scale-up the response to meet the wide-ranging health needs in disasters.

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Fears of destruction and flooding in Vanuatu over hurricane Pam

13 Mar 2015

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Local residents in Port Vila, Vanuatu, stocking up on emergency supplies as Tropical Cyclone Pam approaches. Photo: UNICEF Pacific

A category five hurricane – the most severe – has prompted fears of more destruction when it next makes landfall in the South Pacific.

Hurricane Pam and it’s heading for Vanuatu, a relatively sparsely populated collection of island nations off the Australian coast.

Pam has already caused damage in Tuvalu and Kiribati and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has issued a warning that it could cause more when it hits the Vanuatu capital.

Daniel Johnson has more:

Described as a “very big hurricane” by the World Meteorological Organization, the cyclone known as Pam has been recorded with wind speeds of up to 320 kilometres per hour.

That’s well above the speed used to classify a category five hurricane and the fear is that it could cause serious flash-flooding and landslides when it hits.

Here’s WMO’s Claire Nullis:

 “It’s heading as we speak for Vanuatu…there are fears that the island of Efate, which is where the capital is, might take a direct hit.”

While it’s unclear exactly where the cyclone will hit, concerns are high about Pam because its pressure reading of 905 hectopascals (hPa) is close to hurricane Haiyan.

At 895hPa, Haiyan was the strongest ever to hit land according to WMO, devastating portions of south-east Asia and particularly the Philippines in November 2013.

After Vanuatu the hurricane is expected to move off on Saturday towards Fiji, though it’s not thought likely to make a direct hit, the UN agency said.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1’04”

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How disasters drive displacement – and what should be done about it

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Survivors survey the ruins of their former homes after the 2004 tsunami that hit West Aceh

LONDON, 13 March 2015 (IRIN) – The risk of people being displaced by natural disasters has quadrupled in the last 40 years and, unless governments adopt national and global plans to address the main drivers of displacement, increasing numbers of people will lose their homes to floods, earthquakes and landslides in the future.

This is the main message of a report released on Thursday by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) ahead of the third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction due to take place in Sendai, Japan in the coming days. UN member states are expected to adopt a global plan to reduce disaster risk that will build on the Hyogo Framework for Action adopted 10 years ago. 

The Hyogo Framework addressed disaster risk reduction but not the risk of being displaced by a disaster. Since then, hundreds of thousands of lives have been claimed by “mega-events” – earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones – and there is growing awareness of the need to include disaster-related displacement in future agreements.

The IDMC report measures displacement risk by assessing how vulnerable a particular population is when exposed to a hazard. It concludes that places where rapid and unplanned urbanization has concentrated large numbers of people in areas prone to frequent and severe hazards will continue to bear the brunt of disasters.

Small, under-developed island states such as Haiti and the Philippines top the report’s risk index for future disaster displacement while south and southeast Asia are the regions where displacement risk is predicted to continue increasing.

“Haiti is one of the countries where we’ll see continuous displacement unless something drastically different is done,” IDMC’s director, Alfredo Zamudio told IRIN. “Small islands are going to be very much affected because of the frequency and intensity of the hazards, but things can be done to reduce vulnerability.”

He pointed out that around the same time Haiti experienced its devastating 2010 earthquake, his home country of Chile was much less impacted by an earthquake of even greater magnitude. “The difference was that in Chile they had a building code that started to be implemented in the early 1960s and they respected it. So when the big earthquake came, it gave people more time to get out of the buildings and made them more flexible. So that legislation saved lives.”

By contrast, there was a lack of building codes in Haiti where poor access to land and livelihoods also forced people to live in unsafe areas.

Displacement by disasters is highest in Asia

“Economic growth for a country is not sufficient [for reducing displacement risk],” added Zamudio. “It’s a question of development and governance and providing people with rights so they can themselves find better solutions.”

The study also found that nearly a third of pastoralists in northern Kenya, southern Ethiopia and south-central Somalia could be permanently displaced in the next 25 years due to drought, even without the increased risk resulting from climate change.

The report notes that although climate change is expected to contribute to more frequent and extreme hazards in the future, it has not been a significant driver of displacement up until now. The biggest driver in recent decades has been rapid, unplanned development in hazard-prone areas of poor countries where weak or corrupt governance structures encourage people to live in dangerous locations. Conflict can further undermine the ability of vulnerable communities to protect themselves from, and cope with, disasters. 

Relocating at-risk communities out of harm’s way, as the government in the Philippines is attempting to do in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which displaced four million people in 2013, is a strategy fraught with potential pitfalls. A recent report by Refugees International found that the post-Haiyan resettlement policy had been poorly planned and implemented and had left affected populations “more, not less vulnerable”.

“Resettlement has to be well-funded and done in cooperation with the people affected,” noted Zamudio. “If resettlement is moving people to areas where they won’t have access to livelihoods and services, then it won’t be improving their lives.”

Reducing the risk of displacement from disasters will require states to address a whole range of issues, from better urban planning to improving access to land and livelihood opportunities. “One single policy won’t solve the problem,” said Zamudio.


Theme (s): Disaster Risk Reduction, Natural Disasters, Refugees/IDPs,

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