Forensic Investigations of Disasters (FORIN) (Saturday, 7 June 2014, 15:45 – 17:30)

Migration, Urbanisation and Landslide Disasters in Contemporary Latin America: a Mexican Case Study in the Development and Social Construction of Risk
Irasema ALCÁNTARA-AYALA (Mexico)

Hurricane Katrina and the Forgotten Coast of Mississippi

Stakeholder Interactions for Near Real-Time Forensic Analysis of DisastersHurricane Katrina and the Forgotten Coast of Mississippi
Bijan KHAZAI (Germany)

Causal Loss Analysis: a New Approach to Understand Risk Driving Factors
Susan BRINK (Germany)


Migration, Urbanisation and Landslide Disasters in Contemporary Latin America: a Mexican Case Study in the Development and Social Construction of Risk

Institute of Geography, UNAM, Mexico City, Mexico

Analysis of the social construction of risk in contemporary society requires a holistic multidisciplinary approach that integrates data and information developed from a diversity of methodologies, as recommended by the IRDR FORIN template. This paper demonstrates the analytical and practical value of the IRDR FORIN approach to the problem of landslide hazard in Latin American cities through a case study of a neighbourhood housing project in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico.

Development models favouring urban growth have produced an increasing impoverishment of rural populations in the nations of Latin America, leading to massive migration of rural residents and exploding urbanisation in the post-World War II era. These demographic patterns have overwhelmed the capacities of these cities to accommodate and serve their rapidly growing populations. These cities suffer from a lack of affordable land, a lack of resources for necessary infrastructure, a lack of or selective enforcement of appropriate legislation and regulation, a lack of capacity or willingness to regulate urban growth, and a general subordination of public interest for private gain.

Tuxtla Gutierrez Metropolitan Zone (TGMZ) has experienced significant growth in population in the last 30 years. Situated in a central valley surrounded by mountainous zones, low-lands, piedmonts and terraces, comprised within the Sabinal River Basin, altitude ranges from 520 to 700 m.asl, and climatic conditions of sub-humid tropical type with rainfall in summer. The successive waves of migration have led to a pattern of uncontrolled urban growth and deforestation of these hillsides, now occupied by poor migrants in various conditions of vulnerability and exposure. Our case study reveals a failure of appropriate pre-project study of physical and social conditions resulting in the construction of a neighbourhood exposed to severe erosion and landslide risk, resulting in total economic loss and the relocation of the residents. However, failure to demolish the houses led to their re-occupation by needy people requiring shelter, exposing them to high levels of vulnerability and risk.

Based on the IRDR FORIN methodology, this study integrates geomorphological, socio-cultural, economic and political/public administration data to identify both historically embedded and contemporary critical causes for a post hoc vulnerability analysis to construct a projective disaster scenario to diagnose and develop appropriate steps to eliminate the social construction of risk in urban contexts.

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Hurricane Katrina and the Forgotten Coast of Mississippi

Susan L. CUTTER, Christopher T. EMRICH, Jerry T. MITCHELL, Mark M. SMITH and Lynn WEBER
Department of Geography, University of South Carolina, Columbia, USA

The FORIN programme of the IRDR calls for long-term comprehensive assessments of specific disaster events. This paper’s focus on the impact of Hurricane Katrina and inequalities in recovery along the Mississippi coast over the past eight years is one example of such a study. More specifically, the paper examines the production and reproduction of disaster vulnerability in the region starting in the 1800s. It examines how these antecedent conditions and drivers (racial segregation, tourism development, militarism and hurricanes) continued to alter the landscape of risk and shape and enhance place-specific vulnerability across the region. Employing mixed methods ranging from archival historical research, to stakeholder interviews, to geospatial and statistical analyses, the paper highlights not only the differential impact of Hurricane Katrina, but more importantly, the differential recovery from it resulting in a clearly definable “recovery divide.”

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Stakeholder Interactions for Near Real-Time Forensic Analysis of Disasters

Bijan KHAZAI, Friedemann WENZEL and Tina KUNZ-PLAPP
Geophysical Institute, Karlsruhe, Germany

In adopting the IRDR FORIN approach to comprehensive understanding of disasters, the Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (CEDIM) adds a time-critical component to the evaluation process. The goal is to understand and assess in near-real time the evolution of the event where information may be sometimes scarce or unclear. This requires new tools and methods for event-based rapid analysis of natural disaster impacts and interdisciplinary teams and processes for analysing the related complex interactions and cascading effects in and between the natural, social, economic and infrastructure systems. This type of research also requires new and innovative approaches for ab-initio engagement with stakeholders with clear definitions of mutual needs and processes of engagement and interaction. For this purpose it is necessary to understand the operations and organisational characteristics of the respective stakeholders, what their needs are and the extent to which near-real time Forensic Disaster Analysis (FDA) can contribute to them.

The presentation will draw on actual experience and developments at CEDIM for organising stakeholder interactions along topical Focus Groups (FG), representing both public and private sectors, including civil protection, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, international development, tourism, and the insurance/re-insurance sectors. The interaction with stakeholders is underpinned through knowledge exchange that begins after a large-scale disaster; a time critical period where communication with many actors is most intensive and open. To support and structure the sharing of information at the time of an event, a study has been conducted with a carefully selected group of stakeholders to map their needs and identify processes of engagement. The scientific task of this study consists in:

  • Understanding the transfer conditions of scientific knowledge to the stakeholders;
  • Developing strategies and best practice cases based on this;
  • Developing implementation instruments (e.g., guidelines, cooperation agreements) to support the engagement with stakeholders.

This includes the understanding of the science processes relevant for near-real time FDA and the organisational constitutive conditions under which stakeholders work, ensuring that the FDA works is operationalised and is relevant to be used beyond the academic domain.

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Causal Loss Analysis: a New Approach to Understand Risk Driving Factors

Susan BRINK, Friedemann WENZEL, James DANIELL and Bijan KHAZAI
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany

Global databases of damage and loss from natural disasters and socio-economic indicators from global databases, both contained in CATDAT (Daniell 2011), are used to analyse and identify the causal factors that aggravate or reduce losses in recent large-scale natural disasters, particularly earthquakes. CATDAT contains information on 7,100 damaging earthquakes since 1900. The information includes the seismological parameters, the intensity distribution, damage to buildings and infrastructure, sectoral socio-economic losses, more than 150 socio-economic indicators on a global scale and on provincial level.

Focus for the new approach is initially on shelter needs in the aftermath of large damaging events. The CEDIM ( Shelter Demand Model (Khazai 2012) considers physical impact (building damage and loss, infrastructure deficiencies), environmental conditions such as weather, social parameters (age, education, gender, employment, etc.), and psychological items (fear of aftershock). CATDAT data show that there is a general scaling relation between building damage and displaced persons, however, with significant (order of magnitude) deviations. These deviations from the standard is addressed with horizontal and vertical analysis: identification of anomalous events and in-depth analysis for displaced persons and shelter needs for these cases, and development of causal relations that are responsible for the anomaly (vertical); and search for further cases where specific circumstances cause deviations from the average (horizontal).

A second data set that is scrutinised is the loss statistics regarding the relation between fatalities and direct economic costs. Different levels of the Human Development Index (HDI) show a similar ratio between the costs and the number of fatalities in particular events. However, there are deviations from this scaling, the analysis of which should lead to causal explanations of the environmental or socio-economic reasons for the deviation.

Our main working hypothesis capitalises on the observation that losses are typically very much influenced by the HDI, reflecting the level of development of a county or region. Still within similar HDI levels different loss pattern can evolve, which are rooted in environmental, socio-economic and/or governance conditions. These can be in favour of reduced losses or aggravate them.

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