Our experiences their experiences
(This photo was taken from the Canterbury Public Health Response Document)
In 2011 February 22nd, Christchurch was struck with a 6.4 earthquake at about 12.51 PM in the afternoon. The epicentre of the earthquake was around a place known as Lyttleton. The city centre was badly affected, many buildings collapsed and particularly in the Eastern suburbs of Christchurch, the devastation was remarkable as hundreds of houses were immediately destroyed or were rendered useless for living. People were displaced and were accommodated in several shelters across the city and a massive restoration operation was launched. Immediately following the earthquake, the death tally stood at 185. Following the initial earthquake, the city suffered about 12,000 more aftershocks over the next three years. The citizens battled the aftershocks as they rebuilt the city. Four years later, Christchurch is again coming back to her former glory and plans are afoot for the renvewal of the city. But in the rebuild and reconstruction of the city of Christchurch hangs a tale that can have important lessons for everyone around the world.
In 2015 April 25th, Nepal, in Kathmandu suffered the result of a similar earthquake of much larger intensity 7.9 Richter scale epicentre located at Lamjang in the Kathmandu Valley and not far from Everest. This also led to massive damage, about 1900 lives lost in the first 24 hours itself, and massive losses of property. Several villages disappeared, and there were avalanches from Mount Everest and other mountains that added to the woe. At the time of writing this, rescue operations are underway and several aftershocks have already taken place.
At the time of writing this, a massive recovery operation is taking place, and you can learn more about the recovery operations here
I write this on the third day of the Nepal earthquake and would like to highlight some aspects of earthquake disaster management and strategies that I saw implemented in Christchurch. Some public health and disaster management measures certainly helped people of Christchurch and led to far fewer deaths and destructions that would otherwise occur. In no particular order,
- Immediately after the earthquake, the public health department issued warnings about boiling drinking water and restriction of the “flushing the toilet”. Which meant, the advisories were about conservation of water and keeping in mind that it was possible that the drinking water might be contaminated. It turns out that these two activities alone led to really less load of people with stomach related diseases that would otherwise occur.
- The city government formed a crisis management team and the mayor oversaw the operations. The control room effectively managed hundreds of visitors and worker bees who turned up to set up search and rescue operations that led to the recovery of bodies and clearing of people who were trapped in the debris.
- Several volunteer organisations set up shelters that allowed people to camp out and provided food, shelter, and clothing.
- In addition to medical services, several additional services such as mental health services and care were pressed into action.
- A thorough evaluation of every building was undertaken, and each building in each residential zone was “sticker”-ed, or colour coded so that the status of the building would be known.
- Fresh water was provided to the affected neighbourhoods
- Recovery operations were televised and tally of the deceased and recovered were made available to people.
A good description of the steps are available with the Wikipedia entry