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Kelvin Berryman 100

I have been in Southeast Asia for the past week, firstly in Lao on a consultancy assignment and then in Taiwan as an invited speaker at the 2nd Asian Conference on Urban Disaster Reduction (ACUDR). While in Taiwan I was able to visit one of the areas badly affected by Typhoon Morakot in August 2009. I found it interesting to reflect on comparisons with the Response and Recovery phase of the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence. There are some similarities and some notable differences:


In Taiwan, reconstruction and resettlement of thousands of displaced persons has been rapid and (unlike Canterbury) insurance settlements have not been a complicating factor.


Typhoon Morakot damage and losses were very large compared to the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence but amounted to less than 2% of Taiwan’s GDP.


In Taiwan, resettlement villages were planned by government without extensive community consultation. There has been some protest from affected populations, especially from ethnic groups who have been resettled out of their traditional areas; however, their protest has been muted. Overall, the public response in Taiwan to natural hazard disaster seems to put community ahead of individual rights. The call in New Zealand for even more community consultation for all environmental and planning decisions, and anguish in regard to private property rights is in sharp contrast to how things are done in Taiwan.


A feature of the Taiwan response and recovery was the integration of all NGO’s under a unified management structure during response and NGO-led resettlement projects. The villages that were constructed by NGO’s appeared to offer more flexibility and more flair in design than the government designs. An interesting feature was supervised DIY construction as an option for the displaced people to engage directly in the rebuilding of their future.

Here are a few links to material that you may find interesting:

  • Tsou et al (2011) Catastrophic landslide induced by Typhoon Morakot, Shiaolin, Taiwan. Geomorphology 127 (3-4), 166-178. doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2010.12.013 (Link ♦)

Next year a number of ‘Canterbury Recovery’ conferences are planned. These will be valuable discussions, and offer an almost last chance while memory is fresh, to embed improvements in our Reduction, Readiness, Response, and Recovery planning. Many things worked well in Canterbury but there is also room for improvement. If no actions are implemented after conferences next year then I expect we will repeat the same mistakes when the next natural hazard crisis arises.

Kelvin Berryman - Director, Natural Hazards Research Platform / Principal Scientist, GNS Science