NIWA scientists leave for Brisbane this Friday 28 January. They will join Geosciences Australia in assessing the impacts of the devastating floods that recently hit eastern Australia. These floods, which peaked in the final weeks of 2010 and into 2011, are some of the worst ever experienced in Australia.
The scientists will be conducting post-disaster surveys with flood victims who have experienced damages and losses. This will build a valuable base of information for assessment of economic impacts, and for future prevention. It will also help scientists to gain a better understanding of natural hazards.
NIWA natural hazards scientist Dr Stefan Reese says, "From this research we may be able to make recommendations for changes to building codes, advise on how and where people should rebuild, and how to prepare better for the next disaster. This type of post-disaster study complements the specific information gathering of agencies on physical impacts that are responsible for mitigation, response and recovery.
"There is a consensus amongst scientists from around the globe that only limited data on impacts that arise from disasters is available. And there is a distinct lack of socio-economic data," says Dr Reese.
NIWA scientists have begun conducting more systematic post-disaster surveys in the last few years. Disasters that have been surveyed include: The September 2010 Christchurch earthquakes, Boxing Day 2004 Indonesian tsunami, 2007 flooding in Northland, 2008 wind gusts in Greymouth, and the 2009 Samoa earthquake and tsunami.
The information from these post disaster surveys will be used in RiskScape. NIWA and GNS Science are jointly developing RiskScape, a regional multi-hazard tool that models potential losses, and supports decision-making for the management of natural hazard events by providing information and understanding of natural-hazard risks for planners, emergency managers, and the insurance industry. Scientists at NIWA are focusing on weather-driven and hydrological hazards, while GNS Science work on geological hazards.
The scientists gather information that shows the broader impacts of disasters such as the disruption of economic and social activities, within and beyond the area of immediate direct physical impact. This allows scientists to incorporate both direct and indirect consequences of disasters in order to provide planners and emergency managers with a comprehensive and detailed overview of possible consequences.
Dr Reese says, "Although we have a reasonable understanding of the nature of the various natural hazards, there is much less known about damage beyond the obvious damages to building and infrastructure."
The findings from this survey will help to make New Zealand and Australia more resilient to natural hazards.
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