Environment Forum

Disasterology 2: hard questions for Breezy Point homeowners a year after Sandy

For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

Breezy Point, Queens, New York:

Of all the New York oceanfront communities that Sandy devastated, Breezy Point on the Rockaway peninsula took some of the hardest blows. Breezy Point, a peninsula on the southern shores of New York City, suffered not just from rain and flooding from the storm surge, but also a fast-moving fire that destroyed 125 homes. The storm knocked down another 230. One year later, the neighborhood is struggling with the aftermath and hard questions about how sustainable it will be after the rebuilding.

On some streets, only the concrete foundations of houses remain. Others are completely gone, leaving nothing but weedy vacant lots in their place. This month, construction crews blanketed the neighborhood as builders put together new structures where the old one-story bungalows used to be.

Mike Schramm, editor of The Rockaway Point newspaper and a volunteer firefighter, recalled for a group of visiting reporters the hellish scene where firefighters were kept from the flames because the burning homes were surrounded by water four feet deep. “It was terrible to just watch it go,” Schramm told the visiting journalists studying New York’s recovery efforts.

Disasterology: Storm warnings that work — a lesson from Sandy

For survivors of Superstorm Sandy in the U.S. Northeast, the Sendai tsunami in Japan and the massive earthquake in Chengdu, China, the scars of disaster are still palpable. I’m part of a group of journalists brought together by the East-West Center in Hawaii to see how the people and environments hit by these catastrophes are faring, one year,  two years and five years later. We began our tour on Sept. 29. Here are the other posts in the series:

Even big storm warnings must get personal if they’re going to do any good. Few people know that better than Jason Tuell, director of the Eastern Region of the U.S. National Weather Service, which includes nearly all of the swath that last year’s storm Sandy cut when it came ashore last October.

People in the path of a storm don’t want technical data about storm surges and wind fields, Tuell told journalists participating in our fellowship on disaster management. “What people want to know is, right now, where I’m standing, when is the water going to hit my toes, how deep is it going to get and when are my feet going to be dry again?”

from The Great Debate UK:

Pakistan floods show Asia’s vulnerability to climate change

By Lord Julian Hunt and Professor J. Srinivasan. The opinions expressed are their own.

It is more than a year since the devastating July and August 2010 floods in Pakistan that affected about 20 million people and killed an estimated 2,000. Many believe that the disaster was partially fuelled by global warming, and that there is a real danger that Pakistan, and the Indian subcontinent in general, could become the focus of much more regular catastrophic flooding.

Indeed, right now Pakistan is again experiencing massive flooding.  The UN asserts that, already, more than 5.5 million people have been affected and almost 4300 are officially reported dead, 100 of them children.

from The Great Debate UK:

Preparing for the next tsunami

-- Lord Hunt is a visiting professor at Delft University and emeritus professor at University College London, and former director-general of the UK Meteorological Office. Dr Simon Day is a researcher at the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, University College London. The opinions expressed are their own --

INDONESIA-VOLCANO/The devastating tsunami that struck the Indonesian islands of Mentawai may have caused about 450 deaths, with hundreds more still missing, and compounds the disaster caused in the country by the eruption of Mount Merapi in Java. Following a magnitude 7.7 earthquake, the Mentawai Islands were engulfed with estimated three-metre waves that affected thousands of households.

What has shocked many about this latest disaster is the fact that, more than five years after the cataclysmic Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, when at least 187,000 people died (with 43,000 still missing), there were no greater preparations against the devastation.

This oil leak is different

USA-RIG/LEAK

– Willy Bemis is Kingsbury Director of Shoals Marine Laboratory, collaboratively operated by Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire, and professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell. Any views expressed here are his own.–

Earth Day 2010 will be remembered for the explosion and fire on the Transocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, from which 11 workers are missing and presumed dead.

One week later, the resulting oil leak now seems certain to become one of the greatest ecological catastrophes in United States history.

What’s up with all the earthquakes?

QUAKE-CHINA/

global_post_logo

This article by Julia Kumari Drapkin originally appeared in Global Post. The views expressed are her own.

The quake that hit China Wednesday was the latest in a string of earthquakes in the news lately. Many people are wondering what’s going on, so we decided to ask NASA. Eric Fielding is a geophysicist who uses satellites to study earthquakes at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories in California.

GlobalPost: So first question is the one on everybody’s mind. What on earth, literally, is going on? What’s up with the earthquakes?

Flood drowns Taipei in cinematic wake-up call

American sci-fi blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow warned global audiences about climate change as it showed New York smothered by ice as temperatures plunged worldwide.  But the 2004 movie evidently made little impact on growth-crazy Asia, which has gone ahead spewing pollutants without imagining risks that they might disrupt the climate.

This year a group of filmmakers in newly modernised, consumption-happy Taiwan is going to the densely populated western Pacific island’s public with an hour-long alarmist movie showing the world’s second-tallest building Taipei 101 as an island in a flood that has drowned the capital after a reservoir collapses in a freak super-strength typhoon.

The free film with an obvious mission titled “Plus or Minus 2 Degrees Celsius” began showing in late February, reaching at least 11,000 people so far and with dates to screen for more audiences later in the year.

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