reply to post by Lacenaire
Interesting post. I've wondered about the same thing for years. So okay, I'll offer my humble opinion.
Seeing as how it has taken some days to get relief efforts up and running in the Haiti disaster I feel that in a double or triple disaster scenario,
it would mean serious trouble. But of course, it would depend on exactly where the events occurred, how far-reaching they were in their effects and
(to some extent) the political or $$$ importance of the affected region/s.
For example, eventually there will likely be a major quake on the western coast of the US. I'm not referring to the San Andreas "big one" that many
expect to happen sooner or later, but an even bigger one that would result from a jolt along the Juan de Fuca subduction fault zone that runs up past
Oregon and Washington. Scientists know that part of this fault is "stuck" and that eventually it'll let go again. When this last let go big-time on
Jan 26, 1700 it caused a magnitude 9 quake and sent a tsunami 30 metres high (nearly 100 ft) along the coast there. (We know the date because the
Japanese recorded the tsunami when it came ashore in their lands after crossing the Pacific Ocean...)
"big one". Suffice to say that as the time between the quake's occurrence and the arrival of the tsunami on US and
Canadian West coast in places like the Seattle region and on up into Victoria would be minimal (minutes, not hours), it could be catastrophic.
It could also trigger seismic events in the San Andreas fault system, but that's pure speculation. But even without any serious effects in most of
California, this event would require massive resources to effect search, rescue and also recovery of the victims, let alone restoring the
infrastucture and the later rebuilding.
If, then, at around the same time, there was a similar event in another part of the world, would the USA be in a position to offer the sort of help
that most nations have come to expect? Probably not. Granted, the US has enormous resources but they are not unlimited, and when hundreds of thousands
of its own citizens have been directly impacted it would need those at home.
As I don't want to unduly alarm anyone I should point out that the Juan de Fuca subduction zone quake might not occur for many years. But it is a
threat and one that has been taken into account for major disaster scenarios in those regions that would be worst affected.
And yes, as you pointed out, organization and coordination are clearly key factors in getting aid to affected people. It's no good having the assets
and resources if they can't be delivered and distributed where they are most needed. Then there is the question of trying to maintain some semblance
of law and order.
Even though some lessons have been learned from previous tragic events (like the 2004 Asian Tsunami), the current situation in Haiti demonstrates that
both the governmental and NGO authorities have still a lot more to learn.
Just a couple of minor corrections if I may... The quake off northern California on Jan 10 was a 6.5 -- still quite a big one for that region -- and
the one near coastal Venezuela on Jan 15 was a mag 5.6, not a mag 7.0. I believe some early news reports went out a bit hastily and got the magnitude
completely wrong. It often happens with such things.
[edit on 16/1/10 by JustMike]