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disaster risk management
View of a hurricane/ Photo: iStock
Co-authors: Michael Fedak, Guillermo Donoso, Curtis Barrett, Keren Charles and Kerri Whittington Cox
“June; too soon. July; standby. August; come it must. September; remember. October; all over”. This Caribbean nursery rhyme warns of the impending hurricane season and lets families know that it is time to start preparing for potential disasters.
But are hydrometeorological (“hydromet”) services adequately prepared?
Imagine you live in a city that floods, sometime for weeks, after extreme rainfalls.
Imagine you live in that flooded city, where you and thousands of your neighbors must find a place to stay till the water has receded, and you finally can get back home, with the fear of finding it devastated.
The city of Trinidad is a place like this, located in Bolivia’s Amazonian low-lands, and with heavy prolonged precipitation, rivers, lagoons and lakes rise, affecting thousands of families.
Overall in Bolivia, 43% of the population lives in areas of high flood risk. Trinidad and other cities in the low-lands experience inundations, while in La Paz, Bolivia’s political center, frequent landslides lead to fatalities and damage to housing and infrastructure.
The first time I heard of the Bolivian city of Trinidad was exactly 11 months ago. Although Trinidad is the 10th largest city in Bolivia, I confess I did not know much about it. The Ministry of Development Planning (MPD) had commissioned the World Bank a study on intermediate cities in Bolivia, and in my early research I learned that this was a colonial city founded in 1686 during Jesuitic Missions. Similar in its architecture and climate to the southeastern cities of my native Venezuela, Trinidad is extremely vulnerable to flooding that affect thousands of families and businesses each year.
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The earthquake in Costa Rica caused serious damage, including to major national utilities such as the water network. More than 1.3 million people in San Jose depend on this system for their daily water supply. The good news though, is that the supply of this vital resource is secure, thereby saving lives and inconvenience.
Although fictional, imagine receiving this piece of good news in the midst of a disaster, as described above.
What’s more. If you are an engineer like I am, imagine the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (s) (AyA or government water agency) reported that, while more than 15% of its infrastructure had been damaged extensively by this hypothetical earthquake, vital components such as water towers and pumping stations hadn’t been compromised.