WMU News

Tsunami relief effort faces many hurdles

Jan. 7, 2005

KALAMAZOO--Dealing with the large loss of life, guarding against the spread of disease and helping a devastated area recover economically are some of the main hurdles that must be overcome in dealing with the recent Indian Ocean tsunami, says Dr. Lisa DeChano, assistant professor of geography at Western Michigan University and co-editor and contributor to the recent book, "International Perspectives on Natural Disasters: Occurrence, Mitigation and Consequences."

Released in November by Kluwer Academic Publications, the book also was edited by Dr. Joseph Stoltman, WMU professor of geography, and Dr. John Lidstone, a senior lecturer on the faculty of education at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, whose academic hobby is teaching about disasters. Divided into two parts, the book explores natural disasters in general, such as volcanism, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, mudslides, wild fires and tsunamis. In the second part, chapter authors from around the world delve into regional natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis, their impact and response and recovery from them.

"First of all, just finding everybody will be very difficult," DeChano says. "There will be people that will never be found, and that's probably the biggest thing for the people that were affected, because that is what's in their psyche. They want to find their loved ones. They may never find them, and they may never get over that."

In addition, dead bodies of both humans and animals pose a serious health risk, while helping displaced families recover economically will also be a big challenge, DeChano says, adding the global response so far has been very good.

"I think it's been phenomenal," she says. "This is something that, with all the turmoil we've been having with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and everything else that's been going on in the world, this has actually brought the world together. It's sad that it takes a disaster of this magnitude to do that, but it has. We've become a global community in this particular event."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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