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People install solar panels as part of relief efforts from the January 2010 earthquake, Boucan Carre, Haiti, Feb. 14, 2012, (AP photo by Dieu Nalio Chery).

New Ways of Defining Success in Post-Disaster Recovery

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The year 2010 started with two large earthquakes less than two months apart. The strongest one, by far, was the earthquake in February in Concepcion, Chile, that killed about 250 people. Unfortunately, the earthquake also generated a tsunami, and since an adequate early warning was not issued along the Chilean coast, the tsunami ended up doubling the death toll. A month before, however, a much weaker earthquake shook another coastal city on the other side of the Americas: Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Tragically and catastrophically, many of the city’s buildings collapsed, and the death toll may have reached more than a quarter of a million people. Both illustrated the combination of factors that can turn a natural phenomenon into a human tragedy.

A disaster occurs when exposure to a natural hazard causes harm to people and/or damages buildings and infrastructure. These natural hazards come in many forms, but generally result from meteorological or geological phenomena. They can occur quickly, sometimes without warning, or they can occur slowly, over the span of days, weeks, months or even years. By themselves, natural hazards are not disasters. A hurricane that does not make landfall or cross shipping lanes does not have a meaningful impact on society. ...

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