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					                                                                                      Building a Disaster Free India

DISASTERS UPDATE                     Issue No.970                      Date: 18.02.08

                             TODAY’S HIGHLIGHTS

Security expo opened
The Hindu, Monday, Feb 18, 2008

Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: The 11th international exhibition on “Security, Safety, Fire and Disaster
Management Equipments and Services” was inaugurated by Union Home Minister
Shivraj Patil at Pragati Maidan here on Sunday.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Patil underlined the role of the security required for
individuals, organisations, the country and the environment. “The cooperation of
individuals and private security agencies is required to augment the Government’s
efforts of surveillance and protection in view of the heightened threat perception,” he

Referring to the inclusion of a section on disaster management in the exhibition, Mr. Patil
said: “The race is against terrorism and disaster—man-made or natural—and constant
research is required to upgrade technology to control such disruptive forces.”

Mr. Patil also complimented the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation for organising the
exhibition that would be instrumental in creating awareness among citizens about the
means of combating various security threats.

India Real Estate - Buildings that will cause Thousands of
Deaths in an Quake

Gurgaon, Haryana, IND, 2008-02-18 12:00:00 (

The engineering fraternity has been unanimous in identifying the building category which
is considered the most vulnerable amongst all of the engineered buildings in our country
today - '                    .
          Buildings on Stilts' A simpler explanation would be buildings that have an open
ground floor area and which on most occasions are used as car park.Last two years has
seen an increased number of conferences and workshops on earthquake risk mitigation
and this has resulted in valued interaction amongst members of the
scientific/engineering community specializing in earthquake related issues. Most of these
formal gatherings have aimed at better understanding of earthquake effects on the built
environment and the mitigation techniques that need to be adopted.
The engineering fraternity has been unanimous in identifying the building category which
is considered the most vulnerable amongst all of the engineered buildings in our country
today - ‘Buildings on Stilts’. A simpler explanation would be buildings that have an open
ground floor area and which on most occasions are used as car park.

Constructing multi storey buildings with open ground floor is a common practice in all
cities as the ground floor car park area is not counted in the building FAR/FSI by the
municipality while sanctioning the plans.

If not all majority of the buildings on stilts will collapse in the event of a major quake
whether it is zone 3, 4 or 5. To make matters worse all of these buildings are multi storey
and hence the casualty rate would be much higher when compared to a low rise

The fatal casualties due to collapse of this single building type would be in thousands.
What happened to buildings in Ahmedabad when an earthquake struck Bhuj is a live

One may ask is the Government aware of this grave problem and if so what’s it doing
about it? However the answer is not as simple as even though the Government is fully
conversant with the problem it is so massive that most feel it is an issue easier brushed
under the carpet rather than have to deal with it.

The irony of the matter is that even though we are not ready to deal with this issue which
has the potential of becoming a nightmare just yet, with each passing day it keeps
getting bigger as more of the similar unsafe building stock is getting added to our cities.

A few months back a formal study was initiated to look into the gravity of the matter and
a core team of seismic experts from IIT-Rourkee conducted the survey in the National
Capital Region to study this aspect. The findings are truly astounding and would be an
eye opener even to the Government. The survey studied the recently constructed multi-
story buildings, most having been constructed in the last 4-5 years. All buildings were
found to be constructed on stilts and none of them had additional shear walls in the open
ground story to compensate for the stiffness deficiency. Amongst these 78% were found
to contain additional design deficiencies and thus can be said to be potentially
dangerous. 75% of the buildings had more than one configurational deficiency in
addition to the stilt problem.

All of these can be said to be potential time bombs waiting to explode.

The problem isn’t insurmountable if one has the resolve and approaches it in a
systematic and time bound manner. To start with the Government will have to generate
awareness amongst the masses through print and electronic media that all buildings on
stilts be prima-fascia considered unsafe until a safety certificate is issued by a structural
consultant. In most Indian cities multistory buildings are constructed and continue to be
constructed on 9 to 12 inch thick columns which are highly inadequate even by Zone 3
standards. These buildings will come crashing down in the event of a major quake.

The Government should then ensure that the owners/occupants are guided to having a
structural audit done for their building so as to positively identify those at risk that will
need structural retrofit to upgrade.

Based on the computer analysis the engineer can recommend a retrofit methodology
which can then be handed over to the owners of the building for implementation. Once
this process is completed the responsibility of making the building safe should rest with
the owners. As an incentive the Government can evaluate the possibility of tax
incentives on the amount spent on retrofit.

One of the administrative issues that requires attention at the highest level is the perfect
understanding and co-ordination between the Ministry of Home Affairs which is
responsible for Disaster Management and Ministry of Urban Development which
influences the shape of policies and programmes with respect to construction of
buildings and development of cities. The need of the hour may well be to have a joint
task force handling the issue.

Youth dies due to avalanche in Jammu and Kashmir
18 Feb 2008, 1250 hrs IST, PTI

JAMMU: One person has died due to avalanche in a hilly area of Kathua district of
Jammu and Kashmir, official sources said on Monday.

Body of Rattan Singh buried under the avalanche in the Banjal village of Kathua district
late Sunday night, was recovered on Monday by a police team, they said.

Over 20 persons have died due to avalanche and severe cold conditions in the state so


Moderate earthquake hits off eastern Taiwan
18 Feb 2008, 0828 hrs IST, AFP
TAIPEI: A moderate 5.8-magnitude earthquake hit off eastern Taiwan on Monday, the
central weather bureau said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or

The undersea tremor struck at 0203 IST and was centred 17.8 kilometres southeast of
Yuli in the eastern county of Hualien, the bureau said.

It occurred at a depth of 19.4 kilometres under the sea floor, it said.

Taiwan, which lies near the junction of two tectonic plates, is regularly shaken by

Damaging tornadoes reported in South
By KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press Writer Mon Feb 18, 12:02 AM ET
PRATTVILLE, Ala. - Severe weather howled through much of the nation Sunday,
producing damaging tornadoes in the South that injured nearly 30 people and treating
winter-weary parts of the Midwest to freezing rain, snow and flooding.

  AP Photo: This NOAA satellite image taken Sunday, Feb. 17, 2008 at 12:01 a.m.
                               EST shows clear...

A tornado damaged or destroyed about 200 homes and businesses in Prattville, outside
Montgomery, where Mayor Jim Byard said crews searched for people trapped in the

No fatalities were immediately reported, but two people were critically injured, said Fire
Department official Dallis Johnson. Twenty-seven people had minor injuries, officials

"It' very possible we may have more injuries," he said, saying that some trapped people
had been rescued.

A 35-bed mobile hospital unit was set up outside a Kmart to treat victims with minor to
moderate injuries so that hospitals could take those with serious injuries, Dr. Steve Allen

Toppled utility poles and storm debris littered the area, northwest of Montgomery about 5
miles off Interstate 65. Shelters opened at churches, and school buses shuttled storm
victims out of the stricken area to the city center.

David Shoupe, 18, assistant manager at Palm Beach Tan, said he and a co-worker
barely made it into a laundry room before the roof fell in and the wind tossed shopping
carts aloft.

"Soon as we turned the corner, the roof collapsed everywhere except the laundry room,"
Shoupe said, standing beside his white Lexus, with a front windshield cracked by debris
and the other windows shattered.

About 9,000 homes and businesses lost power in Prattville after storms swept across the
South, damaging homes elsewhere in Alabama and in the Florida Panhandle.

A tornado destroyed four homes in Escambia County, Fla. About 60 other homes,
businesses and storage buildings were damaged to varying degrees, said county
spokeswoman Sonya Daniel.

Residents hustled to clear debris, cover broken windows and spread tarpaulins on roofs.
"I expected to hear the roof blow off as bad as that wind was blowing," Willie Chastang,
58, told the Pensacola News Journal.

Across the border in Escambia County, Ala., two houses were destroyed by a possible
tornado in rural Dixie, the Weather Service said.

The storm damaged some structures in Covington County, Ala., and toppled trees, said
Jeremie Shaffer, assistant director of the county emergency management agency.

The National Weather Service warned of tornado threats and winds of 70 mph as the
storm system moved into Georgia.

Freezing rain and snow fell across the southern two-thirds of Wisconsin, still weary from
a major snowstorm that stranded hundreds of motorists and snarled travel for days.

Numerous crashes were reported, and authorities urged people to stay off roads. The
National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for much of Iowa and Wisconsin, as
well as flood warnings in parts of the two states.

The conditions forced shopping malls, libraries and churches to close. Democratic
presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama postponed or
canceled campaign stops ahead of Tuesday' primary.

Heavy snow and slush closed Kansas City International Airport for almost six hours, the
longest closure in its 35-year history, authorities said. Dozens of flights were canceled.

The severe weather in the South comes on the heels of a tornado outbreak this month
that killed more than 50 people in several states, including Alabama.

New climate pact must treat rich nations as culprits: China
17 Feb 2008, 1730 hrs IST, AP
UNITED NATIONS: Negotiations on a new treaty to fight global warming will fail if rich
nations are not treated as "culprits" and developing countries as "victims", China' top
climate envoy said.

The whole world must take action to confront climate change, but developed countries
have a "historical responsibility" to do much more because their unrestrained emissions
in the past century are responsible for global warming, said Ambassador Yu Qingtai.

"The United States and the developed states as a whole are the countries that created
the problem, caused the problem of climate change in the first place. In my view, that'
what a culprit means," he said in an interview this week on the sidelines of the UN
General Assembly debate on climate change.

The United States and China are the world' biggest emitters of greenhouse gases
blamed for global warming.

Washington has argued it should not have to cut its emissions to a level that would hurt
the US economy while countries like China and India are not required to make similar

Yu disputed that view, calling China "a victim" of climate change and stressing that its
economy only started to grow in the last 25 years.

"It' not logical to ask China ... to cap its emissions or reduce its emissions in the same
manner as a developed country is supposed to do," he said.

Yu said the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" for developed and
developing countries was accepted in the UN Framework Convention on Climate

Bush asks Congress to back HIV/AIDS programme for Africa
Monday, February 18, 2008 : 0130 Hrs

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AP): U.S. President George W. Bush said Sunday that
Congress should renew his global AIDS program and preserve a requirement that
steers money into abstinence efforts.

 `         t
`We don'want people guessing on the continent of Africa whether the generosity of
the American people will continue,'Bush said in Tanzania, the second stop of his
African trip.

Congress, in fact, strongly backs the program, which is credited with getting medicine
and preventive treatment to millions of people _ most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
Yet its renewal has gotten hung up over ideology and political debate about disease

Some Democrats want to eliminate a provision in the bill that requires one-third of all
prevention spending go to abstinence-until-marriage programs. Critics say that while
they don'oppose abstinence programs, the inflexible requirement hampers the effort.

Bush said the time for debate is over, and that those seeking changes on both ends of
the political spectrum should `stop the squabbling.''

The President' Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, expires this year.

 `                                               '            `
`My attitude toward Congress is, see what works,'Bush said. `PEPFAR is working. It
is a balanced program. It is an ABC program _ abstinence, be faithful and condoms. It
                 s                       '
is a program that' been proven effective.'

Tanzania is one of the countries targeted by Bush' emergency AIDS relief effort. More
than two-thirds of all people infected with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa.

Standing with Bush, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete thanked U.S. lawmakers for
the program, but prodded them to keep it moving. `If this program is discontinued or
disrupted, there will be so many people who will lose hope,'he said.

Bush is pushing to renew the program at US$30 billion (euro20 billion) over five years,
double his original commitment. Congress has put more than US$18 billion (euro12
billion) into it so far and is expected to extend the program beyond the Bush presidency.
It is the largest effort to ever target an infectious disease.

Bush, nearing the end of a presidency dominated by the war in Iraq, is targeting
disease and poverty in his visits to five African nations. The president and first lady,
Laura Bush, began their African trip in Benin in West Africa, then flew to the east coast
of the continent to Tanzania. He also plans to visit Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia.

Unlike in the United States, where his approval rating hovers near his record lows, Bush
is treated here with reverence. A crowd of people, some wearing clothing bearing
Bush' image, waved tiny U.S. and Tanzanian flags to welcome him as he walked down
a red carpet toward the State House.

`People may have different views about you and your administration and your legacy,'   '
Kikwete said. `But we in Tanzania, if we are to speak for ourselves and for Africa, we
know for sure that you, Mr. President, and your administration, have been good friends
of our country.'

Later, Bush met with HIV-positive patients and doctors at AIDS treatment wing of the
city' Amana Hospital, funded in part with PEPFAR dollars.

`I' very lucky,'said Tatu Msangi, who was tested for HIV while pregnant, received
treatment and delivered a healthy baby, Faith, now 2.

Bush also signed a nearly US$700 million (euro477 million) aid pact with Kikwete to
help Tanzania build up its infrastructure. It' the largest deal under a Bush program that
offers economic aid to countries that treat their people fairly, rule justly and root out

 ` ll                                 t
`I' just put it bluntly, America doesn'want to spend money on people who steal the
                           '          `
money from the people,'Bush said. `We like dealing with honest people, and
compassionate people. We want our money to go to help human condition and to lift
human lives as well as fighting corruption in marketplace economies.'

At the news conference, both leaders dodged a question about the presidential race in
the United States and the candidacy of Senator Barack Obama, whose father was

Bush, momentarily taken aback by a question about the excitement surrounding
       s                 `                                               '
Obama' candidacy, said: `Seems like there was a lot of excitement for me.'

Kikwete would say only: `Let him be as good a friend of Africa as President Bush has

Bush also Sunday visited the families of victims from the 1998 bombing of the U.S.
embassy here. He said a silent prayer in front of a plaque in the garden of the new
embassy before going inside for private talks. A total of 224 people were killed in the
twin bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.

Global warming could invite sharks to Antarctica: Biologists
Agence France-Presse
Saturday, February 16, 2008 (Boston)

Global warming could make Antarctic waters more inviting to crabs and sharks that
would threaten the frigid continent' unique ecosystem, biologists warned.

                                         Antarctica' waters remain too cold for crabs,
                                         sharks and other fish to survive in, but global
                                         warming has already caused temperatures to
                                         increase by one to two degrees Celsius over the
                                         past 50 years, said University of Rhode Island
                                         biology professor Cheryl Wilga on Friday.

                                         Few predators capable of crushing shelled
                                         animals live in Antarctic waters, Wilga told a
                                         news conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

' a result, the Antarctic seafloor has been dominated by relatively soft-bodied, slow-
moving invertebrates, just as in ancient oceans prior to the evolution of shell-crushing
predators,'she said on the sidelines of the annual conference of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science.

' water only needs to remain above freezing year round for it to become habitable to
                               re                                      '
some sharks, and at the rate we' going, that could happen this century,'Wilga said.

'Once they get there, it will completely change the ecology of the Antarctic benthic
community,'she said.

Crabs have already gotten very close to the Antarctic ecosystem, said Sven Thatje of
National Oceanography Center in Southampton, Britain, who warned of a potentially
catastrophic situation.

'                                                                                     '
 That would be a tragic loss for biodiversity in one of the last wild places on Earth,'he
said, warning that global warming could destroy Antarctica' marine life if greenhouse
gas emissions are not curbed.

Thousands stranded as snow returns to south China
Source: Reuters Foundation
Date: 17 Feb 2008

BEIJING, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Almost 180,000 people have been stranded in the
southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan by a return of snow and freezing weather
which has blocked roads and caused blackouts, state media said on Sunday.

More than 14,000 km (8,700 miles) of roads have been affected and 20,000 vehicles are
stuck, the official Xinhua news agency said.

"The provincial transport department has organised a repair working force to ensure
smooth road travel, especially the transport of important equipment and materials,"
Xinhua said.

"However, the repairs were greatly hampered by the plateau climate, poor facilities and
shortage of money. The workers do not even have special anti-freeze or snow removing
facilities," it added.

Like much of southern and southwestern China, Yunnan had slowly been recovering
from unseasonably cold, snowy weather which brought transport to a near standstill
ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday and left millions without power.

But snow returned to Yunnan on Thursday, Xinhua said.

The government is also struggling to bring the electricity grid back up in the eastern
Yunnan city of Qujing.

China said earlier this week it aimed to complete repairs to power lines and restore
normal power supply by the end of March.

Almost 90 percent of people who had experienced power cuts in large swathes of the
country are now reconnected, with more than 14,000 damaged power lines repaired,
Xinhua added.

                                                                                Compiled by
                                                                                AD Kaushik


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