The Mount Pinatubo Volcano

Describe strengths and weaknesses of the emergency preparedness and response efforts to the eruption of the Mount Pinatubo volcano. Mount Pinatubo is one of the composite volcanoes situated on the Philippine island of Luzon. This strato volcano erupted in June, 1991 and it is deemed the largest eruptions to hit in the past twentieth century.

Large quantities of sulfur dioxide (15 million tonnes) were emitted into the atmosphere. The volcano displaced over 100, 000 people and those who died are estimated to be 800. The volcanic ash was bulky and it caused the collapse of roofs thereby killing people. Infrastructure was wrecked and there was damage of private property as well as crop destruction (Gaillard & Texier, 2008). The volcanic eruption was promptly predicted by seismic experts from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) in April, 1991.

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Land extending over a 6 mile radius around the volcano was declared a danger zone. Evacuation plans were made starting with the over 20, 000 Aeta highlanders. This was an indigenous community that had occupied the mountain slope. Lowland communities also moved and established a safe distance from the volcano. American occupied Clark Air Base was also evacuated and about 18, 000 servicemen were moved together with their dependents to Subic Bay station where they awaited flights to the United States. In total over 58, 000 people were evacuated.

However experts failed to predict on an incoming tropical storm. Storm Sunya’s interaction with the volcanic eruption was catastrophic. The storm caused heavy rainfall which mixed with volcanic ash and the result was tephra rainfall over the entire island. Volcanic ash settled on buildings and over 100, 000 lives were claimed when the roofs collapsed (USGS, 2005). Suc predictions would have led to evacuation of all the island occupants.

Seismic experts failed to explore the possibility of a volcanic – storm interaction and solely focused on the ramifications of volcanic eruption. In addition the lowland areas where most people had fled to were unsafe. Following the eruption, lahars (steaming mudflows) began to cascade towards the lowlands burying people, vegetation, animals and property (GeoResources, 2001). Filipino rescue efforts were supplemented by the international community. USAID donated plastic material for temporary structures to house those displaced by the lahars. A monetary donation of $ 375,000 was also made to fund rehabilitation projects.

However there was resource mismanagement as refugee camps had inadequate amenities and children were suffering from diseases. To date many of the Aetas still reside in resettlement camps. USAID is just one of the few foreign donors in HT Pinatubo eruption. The Philippines should have launched an appeal seeking assistance from the wide international community. More donor funds would have greatly boosted the recovery process and reduced human suffering in the resettlement camps.Describe how you would apply these techniques described by Perry to preparedness and response efforts involving a volcanic disaster such as the eruption of the Mount Pinatubo.

Perry’s techniques of disaster preparedness are presented in form of a four stepwise process. Risk identification is the first crucial stage and there is need to establish if a threat exists. The public should know that there is an impeding disaster about to strike (Perry & Lindell, 2004). In this regard ample information should have been gathered on Mount Pinatubo’s volcanic eruption. It would entail evaluation of all potential risks.

Seismic experts should have foreeseen a storm-volcanic eruption interaction. Due attention should have been given to storm Sunya as it also had the potential to wreck havoc in Luzon island. This would have averted the deaths of over 100, 000 people and valuable property would also be salvaged. The second stage involves risk assessment and this requires the identification of all protective measures. It is essential to safeguard people from incoming danger.

Alarms need to be sounded and all affected persons should receive the warnings in due time. The main protective measure should have been evacuation of all persons from Luzon Island. Experts erred when they allowed some of the island residents’ movement to the lowlands. After the volcanic eruption these people were destroyed by the cascading lahars.Risk reduction follows as the third stage and it’s the process in which the feasibility of all protective options is assessed. A lot of money was spent in evacuating residents from the volcano region but it is much less than the total worth of property that would have been destroyed.

In disaster cases, all resources should be utilized to save lives and property. Lastly is the protective response and this is the decision making process where the action plan is formulated. Additional incentives which increase response include transportation assistance, information hotlines, property protection and care facilities to cater for masses (Sorensen, 1993). For the Pinatubo disaster, public funds should have been mobilized to fund resident evacuation from the island. Care facilities should have been established at strategic places in order to mobilize people for evacuation. The risk identification was done in April and free public evacuation should have began from mid – April and ended by mid-May.

By June all individuals should have departed from the island.