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The Haiti earthquake

The news out of Haiti today has been uniformly grim. As I watched the TV footage of people trying to find survivors from underneath the rubble, it was natural to wonder whether we haven’t been rather pathetic here in Britain to carp about the harsh winter, since, although the winter snows have not been a ton of laughs, it has not meant the kind of devastating loss of life and wreckage of homes that happens in an earthquake event.

Rand Simberg makes the point that while there is never complete protection for any kind of country against natural disasters, it tends to be a pretty useful rule of thumb that richer countries, with superior building standards and better means of rescuing those in danger, tend to fare better when nature strikes. Maybe he is right – I think the Japanese, for instance, with their almost constant experience of earthquakes, are in a better position, due to the wealth and technical prowess of that country, to deal with such events than a miserably poor, conflict-riven nation such as Haiti.

But frankly, even the richest, most technically savvy nation on earth is going to be clobbered hard by a high-category quake. Let’s hope help can get to those who need it most. Here is a site that seems to be offering shrewd advice and links to those involved in the relief efforts.

21 comments to The Haiti earthquake

  • spence

    I read that last year’s very cold weather (in Feb 09) led to about 36,000 additional deaths in the UK, so presumably this winter weather will have a similar or worse effect. Consequently, and even though our calamity is rather slower motion and primarily effects the old here, the UK death toll from not adequately looking after the elderly and other vulnerable groups may well be considerably higher than Haiti – not that there is any competition in disaster and death.

    Have we then coped better even though we’re much richer? Anyway, I’m not picking a fight, it just occured to me that you were perhaps giving greater weight to a disaster with visible immediacy than you were giving to a much slower and much less publicised calamity here at home.

  • newrouter

    how about the french heat wave that killed 15,000 that was preventable

  • EvilDave

    Has the BBC figured out how (in order of preference) (1) America, (2) the Jews, or (3) George “Chimpy McHaliburtan” Bu$Hitler are to blame for this?

  • Bod

    Oh, I think there’s a huge difference between the two situations. Of the 36,000 fatalities whose proximal cause was the cold weather, how many people in total were at risk? Could you have actually identified them beforehand and removed most of the risk?

    In contrast, we *know* that just about everyone who is homeless or in shelter without fresh water in Haiti is at risk of severe illness or death. (Oddly enough, no similar reports from the Dominican Republic). As public health disasters go, Haiti is quantifiable in how many people can be saved by rapid injection of resources and materiel.

    In pure monetary terms (horrible though such calculus is, people do the calculation all the time) we can estimate how many people of all ages could die in Haiti if ‘we’ don’t act now and spend $X. We know pretty much what will kill them too.

    In the case of the the 36,000, what are you proposing should have been provided to save their lives? Heating? Food? New improved shelter? A job? At the risk of being Godwinned, I’d propose that most of that number will not have died as a direct result of a cold snap freezing them in their beds (or cardboard boxes). The cold will be one of a number of proximal causes of their demise. Do you propose that all likely proximal causes should be eradicated? Many nations try to do this already – but they’re pretty much lousy at it. You can spot these countries for their punitive tax structures.

    I wouldn’t want anyone to get the idea that I’m insensitive to the death of some old lady in Barnsley on a cold winter night because she didn’t think she could justify using another 50p worth of gas, it’s just that there are ALREADY social programs that are meant to address that – and on that basis, anyone who thinks society should be doing more to help should be voting with their consciences (or donating to an appropriate charity)

  • As well as wealth, logistical organization is crucial. If all of the expensive trucks, boats, helicopters, search & rescue teams, medical teams, tent, blanket, water and food suppliers are all dependent upon obtaining appropriate sanctions from multiple government bureaucracies attempting to communicate with one another – then errors will be made, time will be wasted and people are going to die for no good reason. For superior wealth to have its full effect on disaster relief, it is vitally important that the slow squeeze of logistical operations through this government bottleneck become a thing of the past.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Spence, your supposition about the “weight” I gave to one situation vs another was wrong, and Bod has done the job for me in replying to that point.

    It is indeed interesting that the Dominican Republic has not suffered – as far as I know – nearly so badly.

  • Ed Snack

    The Dominican republic didn’t suffer nearly as much in part because the quake was very shallow (estimated at 8 km) and very close to Port au Prince, thus that city was hit very badly. That said the generally rotten buildings in PaP contributed much to the destruction and deaths, and the Government (such as it was) has no capacity to respond, that’s what a UN presence can do for you…

  • And to think Haiti had started out with such promise, too.

    Pat Robertson is out there giving all Christians a bad name, as usual. Why do they (the MSM) always go to these fringe ‘jobs instead of approaching real men of God with real integrity? And why aren’t there any quotes from other religious authorities? I’d love to here from some mullah or imam…

  • John B

    What’s wrong with Pat Robertson, Gregory? Who would suggest as a real “man of God”?

  • Well, calling the entire nation of Haiti as having made a pact with the devil is a bit too much, considering most of them weren’t even born at the time this alleged deal was made.

    Given the global nature of the MSM, sure, why not?

    Bp Michael Nazir-Ali (UK)
    Arch Bp Phillip Aspinall (AU)
    Pope Benedict (VA)

    And these are only the more prominent ones I can come up with offhand. If you wanted, you can look up hordes more of proper men of God.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Gregory, I share you loathing of these creeps. At a time like this, I wish these religious nutballs would have the grace to put a sock in it, so to speak.

  • Adrian Ramsey

    “Has the BBC figured out how (in order of preference) (1) America, (2) the Jews, or (3) George “Chimpy McHaliburtan” Bu$Hitler are to blame for this?”

    No, but the Grauniad has

    As a post-evangelical Christian, I think the only appropriate response to Pat Robertson is to sell voodoo dolls pin-cushions with his likeness, all profits to one of the disaster relief funds.

  • Kevin B

    At least in one respect the Haitians have had a small slice of luck. The USS Carl Vinson carrier battle group was on it’s way from east coast to west coast and has been diverted to the island. The fresh water, food, shelter, medical supplies and trained personnel that stroke of fortune brings to the scene will save a lot of lives.

    Also, the Americans are instantly pursuing their usual way of giving charity by being generous with their own money to groups that will spend the resources on the ground in Haiti, rather than waiting for their governments to donate taxpayer’s money through the approved UN agencies where they can be properly ‘administered’ on the way.

  • hennesli

    I blame Obama

  • Rossa

    Richard North at EU Referendum reminds us that…

    “Haiti is particularly vulnerable to climate shocks due to poverty, weak government and lack of infrastructure.” So writes Oxfam in an expensive, recently-produced report on the effects of climate change and the need for adaptation measures.

    It is rather a pity – if not a tragedy – that they did not spend a little more energy, time and money on urging better earthquake precautions.

    But that is the curse of the developing word. Billions are being spent on “climate mitigation”, with a goodly proportion of the money pouring into the pockets of NGOs and “think tanks”, to produce endless reports, and numerous expensive conferences on how to deal with the perils of climate change.

    But while the NGOs and their fellow-travellers get fat and rich speculating over the consequences of a hypothetical threat, the poor get poorer – and now they die. Still, I guess Oxfam will not be holding a climate change conference in Haiti any day soon.”

  • John B

    This is a semi-repost from CC. Hope that’s okay.

    It is amazing what dutiful adherents to MSM thought, free-thinkers can become when it suits them.
    I have looked at a YouTube clip of a TV interview on this, and while I am not overly impressed with Buchanan’s delivery, or necessarily his full interpretation of the Haiti tragedy, I would fully agree with him that if you make a pact with the devil you will find it a hard agreement to live with.
    I don’t recommend that one tries it.
    (If ever one did and subsequently needed help there is a way to get free which is very simple and personal and requires very little other than an honest heart. But don’t dig yourself in too deep before hand. Sometimes it is not possible to break free. The desire to turn away from death can be broken.)

    As for Buchanan I think the only acceptable take on it, for a Libertarian, is that he is entitled to his view and suggesting he shut up (put a sock in it) is the kind of intolerance one could expect from AGW supporters to “AGW-deniers”.

  • Robert Scarth

    Early every year Swiss Re publish a report on the previous year’s disasters. The report on 2008 can be found here (the report on 2009 is not yet published).

    The most interesting part is the tables at the end. They include tables on the top 20 disasters ranked first by insured loss, and then by lives lost; there is rarely any overlap. Tables 4 and 5 on pages 19 and 20 show the tables for 2008’s disasters, and tables 8 and 9 on pages 37 and 38 show the corresponding tables for the period 1970-2008.

    tables 6 and 7 on pages 21-36 show a list of all disasters in 2008, and make for grimly fascinating reading.

    (I used to work for Swiss Re.)

  • John B: There is a big difference between a deal made with the devil on a personal level and on a national level.

    Can you really blame the current lot of Haitians for what their ancestors did? That’s what Pat Robertson seems to be doing; and it’s not the right message.

    Now, you want to talk about their corruption, their culture, their adherence to voodoo, that’s one thing. But I’m not sure that it’s right for Pat Robertson to say that *this* particular disaster is directly attributable to a ‘deal with the devil’ 200 years ago.

    And I don’t want him to misrepresent all of evangelical Christendom in the process.

  • Paul Marks

    Pat Robertson blamed a pact with Satan (a pact that even he accepts was not made by anyone now alive – it was supposedly made by a few anti French rebels two centuries ago) – and Danny Glover (the Chevez fan actor) blamed globel warming, and the evil United States.

    Both men are tosspots – and should be ashamed of themselves.

    Between one hundred and two hundred thousand people have died – out of a population of nine million.

    This is worse, in proportion to the population, to the deaths that Britain suffered due to the First World War (let alone the far fewer deaths of the Second World War) and worse than America suffered due to the Civil War.

    And it has happened in a day.

    Talking about dodgy buidings will not do – have a look at the Presidential residence.

    The people of Haiti have been hit by a terrible natural event – an event that they could have done nothing to prevent.

    And nor could the U.N. – for all that we may dislike the U.N. (and I do oppose it) the head of mission DIED AT HIS POST. How is it possible to expect anything more than that?

    This event is similar (in terms of the number of people who have died in relation to the population and in relation to the physical damage done) to that of the ancient volcanic explosion on Thira and the death and destruction it directly and indirectly led to for the Minoan civilization on Crete.

    It astonishes me that people still do not seem to understand the SCALE of what has happened.

    I will try to explain.

    Try to think of London as rubble (just rubble) with much of the population dead or dying.

    What effects do you think this would have on England?

    And remember this is an “England” without any other cities of real importance.

  • John B

    Apologies for mixing Robertson and Buchanan.
    I do not know this situation so I suppose I should shut up. However, as soon as spiritual realities come into the matter everyone and his dog sides with ‘sanity and reason’. So I suppose I can also claim a bit of latitude with regard to being totally factually specific and accurate.
    My perception is that these people need help. But not more so than a lot of other people in the world who are dying. Having got over the media concentration to look at Robertson’s words. I think it needs to be recognised that any situation where destructive spiritual forces are invoked will sooner or later wind up with a seriously bad reaction. It is no secret that Haiti has been in a bad way for a long time so it’s not like God said: Pow!! Your grandaddy made a pact with the devil and now I am going to ZAP!! you.
    I think it is more that a whole negative situation has been developing here for a long time. Like is happening in many parts of the world.
    My experience is that when people turn their lives over to God they experience profound deliverance.

  • Laird

    So the Haitians got an earthquake because of generations of bad karma, huh? A 21st Century version of Sodom and Gomorrah?

    You’re as much a nutter as Robertson.