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Antonio Aretxabala Díez, Geologist. , School of Architecture

The most costly year for natural disasters

Sat, 31 Dec 2011 10:22:01 +0000 Published in Eldiariomontañ,, (Vizcaya and Álava),, (Jerez and Cádiz),,, (Alicante, Albacete and Murcia),,, (Almería, Jaén and Granada),

Japan, Chile, China or Spain have been some of the multiple scenarios that have suffered the devastating effect of a nature that reveals the vulnerability of design of the cities

The year we are leaving is already the most costly in natural disasters in our history, and at this point, with objective economic patterns, nothing escapes us to be "valued". Almost half a trillion dollars, half of which went to Fukushima, is slightly more than double that of 2010, which at the same time tripled that of 2009. The year we are leaving behind is six times as bad as 2009.

Disasters are caused by earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, cyclones, droughts or floods; if in 2010 Chile and China were the worst treated, in 2011 almost no one is spared. Burma, Guatemala, Turkey, Uzbekistan or Siberia suffered several of the most disastrous earthquakes, but also developed countries that did not expect the scourge of the Earth were hard hit, New Zealand ended the year three times shaken, Spain with Lorca and El Hierro still stupefied, and the East Coast of the USA, hit no less than in Washington and New York, which has exposed a issue not small vulnerabilities of design of our contemporary cities, also urbanistic or pedagogical of the population of the so-called civilized countries, to which we are supposed to belong. We have to assume it: we are a country with a seismicity capable of killing, injuring hundreds of people, ruining our heritage or economically paralyzing a region, also floodable and with an illiterate population in disasters.

It is no coincidence: this year we have reached 7,000 million souls on the planet, it is significant to observe the growth of cities, especially in the last 50 years, the extension of many has quadrupled and they conquer dangerous spaces. The area now occupied by cities was unthinkable in the 70s of the 20th century. The scenario of seismic disasters, for example, is still in the heads of our leaders and engineering consultants the building, the house..., whose regulatory restrictions, flood, fire or seismic codes have become almost impossible to assume, support and comply with by architects and builders.

But other voices have already anticipated what the coming years may bring, we try to bring out another paradigm more appropriate to our times: the real scenario of catastrophes is the city, increasingly extensive and therefore vulnerable, so the weapons must be appropriate to these new sizes and locations. Such is the approach of the Turkish authorities with the European Istanbul, and is that by force hang, after the disaster involving 14 devastating earthquakes from 1939 to 2011 and knowing that in 20 or 25 years will receive the blow of another closer, the population that borders 12 million in the metropolitan area , is already being cultivated and trained in this regard, the distribution of the territory suitable and reinforced buildings. Italy has already taken that model and it is on it. Europe must not allow such a calamity.

Spain as we already know 'is different' and our master plans for cities like Lorca continue to contemplate the known active faults as points of cultural scientific interest, and the unknown ones are still lurking there....Thursday morning street markets on the ramblas, Spanish children, except those of El Hierro, still do not know what to do if there is an earthquake and the promenades are an economic drain for municipalities after each storm, each year more frequent and violent, systematic arroyadas are no longer news, repeated floods.

The eighties model is obsolete, the extension of our cities was made without knowing very well what the soil that supported them was capable of, the best example is the neighborhood of La Viña de Lorca, whose sounding board played the echo of the wave that comes and goes, crashing against the walls of the bucket that kidnapped it, sweeping the surface not once, but several times.

Hopefully 2011 will be an anomalous year, but citizen prevention policies, just in case, are still absent. In Lorca they did not expect it: that is the problem.