Tsunami of 26 December 2004 in Asia shocked many people. Following the disaster closely hour by hour on the television, web and in the journals we are terrified more and more each moment. Many people who lost their lives in the disaster, were injured or lost members of their families and lost their goods. Children lost their parents, aparents who lost their children, man their wifes and women their husbands.
This kind of disaster is part of the field of ‘handling complex societal problems’ . Part of risk management. The reprots of the disaster can be followed as closely as possible in order to be able to analyze what happened . Prevention of disasters, and dealing with the complexity at the momnet and after a disaster is a topic of our field.
It is comforting to see that the whole world was alert, and willing to help. To see that the local, governmental, NGO’s and international organizations are doing their utmost to help as good as possible and that people all over the world are willing to send money stimulated by the frightening real life reports of the media.
Nevertheless we have noticed that the communication and the distribution of food and medicines and physical help in the first days are very difficult. We saw that some of the support given is coming to late due to, not adequate reactions to the disaster, too late reactions, former political fights and corruption. Deaths had to be identified, as far as this is possible or later on, recognized as deaths. People sending money meanwhile seeing the local currencies going down by opportunists playing the stock market. Miscommunication, ignorance, political differences,Inefficiency and corruption is unfortunately almost always the case in handling complex societal issues like this disaster.
Afterwards, when the direct emotional attention of the world is slipped away, the survivors, and the affected countries, are confronted with the huge effort of building up there lives again. People are emotional shocked and mentally abused by the lost of their loved one’s, their families and friends, their means of living.
Many things have to be build up again, injured people physically and mentally have to be helped, orphaned children have to be very carefully taken care of, man and women have to be able to make a living to support their family again, infrastructure and communication have to be rebuild, flooded areas have to be cleaned, fisher boots, schools, hospitals have to be rebuild. Money promised have to be distributed to those areas and people to which it was mend for. This has to be very carefully controlled. This needs next to money support of people experts like, doctors, nurses, psychologists, building companies for building houses and boats, agricultural experts, communication, roads builders, traffic experts, etc.
How to deal with this complexity is the center of our scientific field, how to use the knowledge and effort of experts, how to make the different power parties (actors/ stakeholders) to communicate and agree on accepted and sustainable solutions and how to deal with emotions. Each of us focuses on their own methods and tools of how to handle such a complexity. Our researchers are specialized in logistics, decision support, effects on communication, transportation, sociological effects of the people, individual effects, political effects, effects on local communities, effects on economics, and effects on the soil.
The issues we could address are: prevention of disaster, c.q. diminishing the casualties, by analyzing how other disasters are handled in Bangladesh of BAM for instance, early warning systems how does this help?, prevention of disasters by medical supplies and airplanes, helicopter, flying hospitals, food and water supply storages, sustainable building houses, stabile communication, how can satellites help, and communication between international organizations of different kind, governmental and Non Governmental organization, and local organizations given different cultures, languages and religious and political believes and different knowledge, power and emotion. What were the blind spots, what were the white spots in handling the disaster, what went well and why, what happened concerning the knowledge, power and emotion.
Dealing with the disaster at the moment of the disaster, handling the effect afterwards, rebuilding the communities, long term effects on people, fear, tourist industry, and land. How to improve handling a disaster like this in the future.
At the connecting website one can see how this kind of disaster we can be analyzed, casualties mitigated and handled based on the COMPRAM method.
©Dorien J. DeTombe, All rights reserved, first published December 2004 update June2006