Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 7, 2015

Humanitarian Logistics in Nepal: Number 4

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on May 7, 2015

In the last forty-eight hours surveillance operations have completed an initial accounting of the entire impact region.  This has found even greater devastation in remote communities than had been anticipated.  The death toll is now over 7500, but likely to increase.  In the ascent to the High Himalayas whole villages have disappeared beneath landslides.

The United Nations Logistics Cluster is releasing detailed maps of these areas.  Many show several place-names entirely detached from even tertiary roads.  Long-used foot trails are impassable.  In many places pedestrian suspension bridges have been lost.  Already treacherous terrain is now totally changed and even continuing to shift.

Over 284,000 houses have been destroyed.  More than 200,000 have been seriously damaged.  This has also reduced foodstocks, seedstocks, agricultural tools, and other resources needed for recovery.  The May 6 OCHA update notes:

Many people have lost their homes and livelihoods and will require time and support to access relief ahead of the monsoon season. People might have also lost their documentation which can make it difficult to settle land issues, if they arise. In addition, in some areas, recently harvested wheat and barley crops have been lost together with seeds required for the upcoming rice planting season. Ensuring that adequate support reaches those in need before the monsoon season begins is a top priority, thus, securing the pipelines and prepositioning of goods is critical…

2,693 metric tons (MT) of food has been dispatched and is currently being distributed in 15 districts.  34 MT of high energy biscuits were distributed across the affected districts. Food assistance activities using cash are being planned in Makawanpur based on the market functionality assessment… Rice seed needs to be procured and distributed to farmers within the next three weeks.

Distributing cash — often through hiring focused on community recovery tasks — is one way to begin to replace the “push” of humanitarian logistics with the “pull” of supply chain recovery.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

May 7, 2015 @ 7:26 am

DAMAGE ASSESSMENT! I defy any poster or reader of this blog to link to any article or information on how even the USA does domestic damage assessment. Nailed over and over by GAO and Congress FEMA post-Hurricane Andrew created FAST to help drown out the criticisms.

Perhaps oddly FEMA and its predecessors had highly expert personnel in modeling data for post nuclear strike damage assessment in the COLD WAR and house in a sparkling new structure in Charlottesville, VA. the MCL [Mathematics Computer Lab] housed these experts. OMB always the enemy in exploration of MOM incidents and events told FEMA to close down this damage assessment and modeling operation. Which FEMA did do. The OMB argument was that the private sector economic modeling capability would allow off the shelf purchase of damage assessment models. Hey did you know that capability does not exist and in fact outside of the secretive Federal Reserve no real economic modeling capability exists in the federal Executive Branch pre-or post disaster.


Comment by William R. Cumming

May 7, 2015 @ 7:28 am

BTW the MCL building was donated lock, stock, and barrel and computers to the University of Virginian by the FEDS.

Comment by Vicki Campbell

May 7, 2015 @ 9:26 am

Bill, I’m unclear what your point is, because both the Red Cross and FEMA certainly do perform disaster assessments. I know, because I’ve been trained in and performed them. Yes, the GAO did complain about their quality, but that’s not the same thing as simply not doing them after disasters…….? Are you suggesting the need for something more thorough and/or involving more specialized expertise?

Comment by Vicki Campbell

May 7, 2015 @ 6:15 pm

I thought this was pretty interesting:

Ohio State University researchers are using one of the state’s supercomputers to aid disaster relief efforts following the massive earthquake that shook Nepal.

The researchers, who typically analyze satellite images to monitor changes in glaciers and icecaps in Antarctica, realized shortly after the April 25 earthquake that the same technology could be used to monitor potential aftereffects in hard-to-reach places in Nepal.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake killed more than 7,000 people and injured at least an additional 14,000. Hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed.

Ian Howat, an earth sciences professor at Ohio State and a researcher at the university’s Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, had been working with another scientist, Paul Morin, director of the University of Minnesota’s Polar Geospatial Center, to study changes in Antarctic ice.

Howat and Morin used satellite images from private satellites to build computer-generated maps that showed Antarctica’s ice terrain. They realized that they could do the same thing in Nepal, potentially showing areas at risk for post-earthquake disasters.

“One of the immediate issues is landslides,” Howat said. “So you can use (the images) to look at slopes that are particularly unstable and then go target those for assessment.

“We think it could save lives if you could evacuate villages in the way.”

The amount of data they are crunching to build the maps is massive, though.

Analyzing it on a regular, desktop computer would take weeks. Enter the U.S. Ohio Supercomputer Center, which offered its flagship supercomputer, the Oakley Cluster, which can process all of the satellite’s images in a matter of days.

Once they started analyzing the images, Howat built image-driven maps that show the terrain.

Morin, who has been working with these satellite images for years, put those images on the internet for anyone to use.

A United Nations relief group has started using them to identify potentially troubled areas around Nepal.

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