Archive for January, 2010

The Scale and Economic Impact of the Haiti Disaster

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Author: Dr. Lloyd Blanchard, Director of Public Performance Management, IEM

The scale of death and destruction in Haiti as a result of the earthquake on January 12 (and its aftershocks) is difficult to imagine, even with constant news coverage and video. Part of my job is to estimate economic damages that result from natural disasters, and my research on Haiti and past earthquakes suggests that this disaster is on an unprecedented scale. (See our loss estimates here: http://www.iem.com/NewsArticle.php?news_id=66)

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed over 200,000 people across 15 countries. This scale of human loss is expected in Haiti with a population of 8.8 million—about as many people in the Chicago area.  This is absolutely staggering!

Most death toll estimates from disasters are expressed in terms of the number of deaths per 10,000 in the population, or per 1,000 in population as in the case of big events like the 2004 tsunami. In Haiti’s case, it can be expressed relative to 100 people in the population. We estimate the Haitian death toll between 173,000 and 207,000, or around 2 deaths per every 100 persons.

There is a unique fact about human and economic losses from natural disasters. If a disaster occurs in an economically developed country, one can expect high economic losses, but few deaths. The opposite is generally true when a disaster hits less economically developed countries—fewer economic losses and many more deaths.

Here are a few examples:

  • Hurricane Katrina (2005) is the most costly natural disaster in the history of the United States, at a reported $125 billion, but only 1,800 people died as a result.
  • The 1994 Northridge earthquake in California cost around $30 billion, yet only 60 people are reported to have died.
  • Consider the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami costs and death tolls for the 3 most affected countries:
    • Indonesia: $4.4 billion in costs, 166,000 deaths
    • Sri Lanka: $1.3 billion in costs, 35,000 deaths
    • India: $1 billion in costs, 16,000 deaths

This pattern is largely because developed countries have more expensive physical infrastructure –often in harm’s way—as well as more advanced protective measures. Haiti’s poorly constructed buildings are likely the primary reason for such a high rate of death.

Haiti’s economic losses could exceed the total value of its annual production, around $7 billion. Our initial estimates of $6 to 9 billion for property losses is a projection of the reconstructed property costs, which will far surpass the value of the destroyed property. The international community will likely help Haiti rebuild to modern building standards. IEM’s $2 to 3 billion estimate in business interruption losses is for the first year only. Economic recovery will be a multi-year process that will depend in part on how fast basic infrastructure is restored and lives are brought back to a sense of normalcy.

The earth heaved up a catastrophe in Haiti

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Author: Madhu Beriwal, CEO & President, IEM

The earth heaved up a catastrophe in Haiti. The immediate tasks fall into the lowest and most basic of the Maslow Heirarchy of Needs – rescue from the rubble to be able to breathe, food, water, shelter, medical care. This will later wrap into concern for temporary housing, family reunification, and eventually long-term recovery. Haitians will have to rebuild their capital and restore their lives – with help from international organizations and countries. We at IEM are doing our part – contingents of IEM personnel are deploying today to support the Haiti effort. They will do what they do for disasters – use their intellect to do the best they can to support the mission.

But, this blog entry is not about science, technology or analysis. It is about feeling. Of the 1.8 million residents of the capital, Port-au-Prince, almost 50,000 are feared dead. There is almost no way to wrap around that number around a human heart. With all constant coverage of this catastrophe, one stands out for me personally. A reporter mentioned that children are sleeping out in the open, right next to dead bodies – there is no shelter available for them as yet, and no-one available to shield them from sight of the dead and wounded. Can you think back to the time that you tip-toed into the dimly lit room of your sleeping child and felt the warm glow of seeing them snugly bundled up safe and sound? Can we imagine that same child sleeping out in the open, knowing that those lying around them are now dead?

America will open its hand for those children. That is the mark of this country. Super-powers are not just measured in the might of their arms, they are measured in their generosity of spirit. As we always do, we will transcend tribal instincts to tend to those that are in need – without accounting for clan, creed, or color – that is the hallmark of a Great Power.

IEM is contributing $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation. In addition, we will match the generous contributions made by our employees.We are also encouraging our corporate partners, especially members of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) to contribute to Haiti relief.

Madhu Beriwal is a nationally-recognized thought leader in emergency management, with more than 30 years of experience in disaster and emergency management, homeland security, and national defense. She has pioneered efforts to help Federal, state, and local agencies optimize limited funding to achieve maximum protection.

Madhu Beriwal is a member of the prestigious Army Science Board, and a former member of the Defense Science Board’s Task Force for Intelligence Needs on Homeland Defense, created at the request of the DoD and the CIA to address counter-terrorism intelligence requirements for homeland defense. She is also a guest lecturer for the Homeland Security Executive Leadership Program at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, California, where Ms. Beriwal teaches courses on Global Terrorism and Emergency Management.

Madhu Beriwal holds a Master’s degree in Urban Planning (Transportation and Land Use) and a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and Economics.