Imagine that you are the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, what will you plan to do in order to reduce the health impact of earthquake?
Among all natural disasters, earthquake has perhaps caused the highest death toll and financial loss. Being unpredictable and undetectable, alleviation as well as evacuation have become even more difficult. The Hanshin-Awaji earthquake in 1995 caused a property loss of over US$60 billion and a lost of more than US$100 billion in capital (Sawada, 2008, p.463), whereas in 2010, The Haiti tremor has caused over 200,000 deaths estimated by the Haiti government with a magnitude of 7.0 (Wade, 2010, p.22).
An earthquake can be classified as a geophysical hazard and is most popularly explained by the Plate Tectonics Theory. When several tectonic plates meet and form major faults, they move along each other slowly, increasing the intensity of stress. Energy is released suddenly when a stress point is ruptured in the form of seismic waves. There are two types of seismic waves, namely Body Waves which travel through the interior of earth and Surface Waves, travelling along the earth surface. The 2 types of body waves are primary waves (P-waves) and secondary waves (S-waves). Surface waves can be divided into Rayleigh Waves, Love Waves and Stoneley waves. (Michael, 2011, pp. 170-171)
According to the Hong Kong Observatory (2012, p.2), “[n]o locally felt earth tremor had ever caused any casualty since records began. Most of these earth tremors were of intensity V(5) or below on the Modified Mercalli Scale”. However, Chandler (2001, p.70) states that a “1000-year design-level event of magitude M=6.8 with its epicentre located a distance of 50 km from HK may be assumed”, pointing out the fact that there is still a possibility that earthquakes may pose detrimental health impacts, both short and long term effects to Hong Kong. As the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, preventive measures should be planned in advance in order to reduce the health impact that may possibly be brought by earthquakes in the future.
After an earthquake, roads and highways are damaged and water pipes are broken, blocking the transport of water, result in the inflation of price of water. Concrete may drop into rivers or lakes, polluting the water, leading to a shortage of clean water. Without the supply of clean water, short term health impacts, for instance, dehydration, diarrheal diseases such as cholera, severe malnutrition and spread of diseases may result. To prevent these short term health impacts caused by an earthquake, the Hong Kong government should be able to provide bottles of clean water, water purification tablets and rehydration salts to the Hong Kong citizens. Temporary water purification plants should also be built to sustain the provision of clean water.
As mentioned above, transportation is restricted leading to the insufficient supply of food. Also, Hong Kong citizens do not have much experience in facing destructive earthquakes so they have no preparation or storage of food. Food are usually expired or spoilt while the utensils for eating and cooking are contaminated by pathogens in unsterilized water. Immediate short term health impacts like gastrointestinal disease like diarrhea, hepatitis A are resulted. As the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, it is important to maintain a sufficient storage of tinned food, instant food or food of low salt and acidic content so that when earthquake hit Hong Kong, a tremendous amount of clean food can be supplied to the affected region and consumed by the victims.
Buildings will collapse or become severely damaged so that victims become homeless or have to be displaced. In cold or rainy weather, victims become ill or die of hypothermia easily. When living in the shelter of poor conditions, infectious diseases may burst out. The Hong Kong government should be prepared to build safe temporary shelters that are big enough to accommodate the large capacity of victims....
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