Haiti quake a reminder that impacts of disasters can be minimized, says scientist

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Washington, Feb 2 (ANI): A scientist at the University of Colorado (CU) at Boulder, US, has said that the devastating Haiti earthquake is a reminder that adverse impacts of disasters can be minimized.

"What is missing from the tragedy of disaster, and our response to it, is the recognition that disasters are preventable, that it is within the power of societies and communities to prevent or at least minimize the devastation disasters cause," said Kathleen Tierney, director of CU-Boulder's Natural Hazards Center.

"We mourn the human toll of disasters, but collectively we do far too little to minimize their impacts," she added.

The pervasive view of disasters is that they are inevitable, according to Tierney, who also is a professor of sociology.

They are viewed as acts of God, acts of nature or just random, tragic events.

But while earthquakes are inevitable in earthquake zones, and hurricanes and tornadoes are inevitable under certain weather conditions, "there are no inevitable disasters," she said. "There is no such thing as a natural disaster," she added.

"The city of Port-au-Prince increased in size and population with virtually no attention given to the fact that it's in a seismic area, located on a boundary between two continental plates," she said.

No effort was made to make buildings seismic-resistant. No restrictions were placed on where or how homes were built. Many homes were built on hillsides susceptible to landslides.

"All of these conditions are either tied to or made worse by the extreme poverty in Haiti," Tierney said.

Eighty percent of the population lives in poverty and the country was still recovering from four hurricanes that hit the country in 2008 when this year's earthquake struck.

"The Haiti government can't provide for daily needs, much less a disaster," Tierney said.

But there are steps that can and should be taken now to make Haiti more disaster-resistant, according to Tierney, noting that the country faces continued risks from aftershocks, landslides and another hurricane season starting in June.

She hopes that the international donor community will put preventive measures in place as a condition of providing disaster assistance.

"For example, hillsides in Haiti should not be developed and the badly damaged port of Port-au-Prince should be rebuilt to standards that will enable it to withstand the next earthquake and the next hurricane," she said.

Implementation of good emergency management practices and the engagement of Haitian communities in planning for future disasters is also essential. (ANI)

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