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Vanuatu

​Air transportation – the critical infrastructure when disaster strikes

Charles E. Schlumberger's picture
Relief supplies being unloaded from a New Zealand C-130 at the airport in
Tuvalu after Cyclone Pam struck some outer islands. Photo: Nora Weisskopf

When disaster strikes, air transport is often the only feasible mode of transportation for first responders and urgently needed relief supplies. Following an earthquake, tsunami or hurricane, most roads, rail tracks and even ports become unusable, as they are blocked for days by debris. Airports, on the other hand, are remarkably sustainable and, within hours, usually become operational again.  

Kathmandu Airport: Already crowded
before the earthquake. 
​Photo: Charles Schlumberger
The main reason of this sustainability is that runways are on open space where debris of a disaster can be removed quickly. Furthermore, a runway usually suffers remarkable little damage even by a strong earthquake, such as experienced last week in Nepal or in Haiti in 2010. And even if there are cracks and holes in the runway, modern relief aircraft like C-130s can operate safely for some time.
 
However, the challenges of operating relief flights can quickly become overwhelming, especially for airports in developing countries that usually experience only moderate traffic. In Haiti, for example, more than 74 aircraft landed on a single day following the earthquake to unload supplies. Such traffic poses risks in the air; air traffic control, often hampered by inadequate or damaged surveillance installations, can’t cope managing all arriving aircraft. On the ground, where tarmac and taxiways are small, congestion quickly reigns which prevents the arrival of more flights.

Tackling climate change – for our kids

Jim Yong Kim's picture
If you have children or grandchildren, you probably have wondered what the world will be like for them in 20 or 30 years. Will it be a better place? Will climate change upend their lives? It's something I have thought about a lot since I became president of the World Bank Group in July 2012. Within the first few months in the job, I was briefed on an upcoming climate change report, and the findings shocked me. I knew then that tackling climate change would be one of my top priorities as leader of a development institution whose mission is ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. If we don't start controlling climate change, the mission to end poverty will fail. Last week I delivered a lecture on climate change at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to a roomful of young people who are surely thinking of climate change's impact on their lives. Climate scientists project that if we do nothing to control carbon emissions, temperatures could rise as much as 4 degrees Celsius by the 2080s. Mean temperatures during the last ice age were 4.5 degrees to 7 degrees Celsius lower than today, and the temperature had changed gradually over millennia. We're talking about that kind of temperature shift occurring in the future over a very short period of time. Life on Earth would be fundamentally different.
 

Preparing for disasters saves lives and money

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Tropical Cyclone Pam, a Category 5 storm, ripped through the island nation of Vanuatu on March 13 and 14. © UNICEF
Tropical Cyclone Pam hit the island nation of Vanuatu on March 13-14. © UNICEF


SENDAI, Japan Without better preparation for disasters – whether they be earthquakes and tidal waves, extreme weather events, or future pandemics – we put lives and economies at risk. We also have no chance to be the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty.
 
Just a few days ago, the world was again reminded of our vulnerability to disasters, after Tropical Cyclone Pam, one of the most powerful storms ever to make landfall, devastated the islands of Vanuatu. Some reports found that as much as 90 percent of the housing in Port Vila was badly damaged.  When the cyclone hit, I was in Sendai for the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which took place only a few days after the fourth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. That quake and subsequent tsunami tragically resulted in more than 15,000 deaths and caused an estimated $300 billion in damage.