'Fluke mentality:' If you think you're safe from natural disasters, think again

Lu Feiran Li Qian
Global warming is causing weather-related disasters of more frequency and severity. Now is the time to think about preparedness.
Lu Feiran Li Qian

Weather extremes are becoming all too frequent around the world. We watch these events on TV news, our hearts go out to the victims and we thank our lucky stars that these events always happen to someone else. But are any of us immune from danger anymore?

This summer alone: wildfires in Europe, Hawaii and Canada, flooding in Greece, Libya, South Korea and Brazil, prolonged record heat across parts of Europe and North America. And closer to home, Shenzhen and Hong Kong were hit by flooding from the heaviest rain on record in the aftermath of Typhoon Haikui, while Zhuozhou in Hebei Province is still reeling from flooding from another typhoon.

Tornadoes, typhoons, heat waves, landslides and other weather-related disasters are now occurring in places where they haven't been common in the past. Scientists blame global warming for their frequency and severity. The lesson: If you think you are safe, think again!

Shanghai Daily talked to Sun Jianping, dean of Institute for Urban Risk Management of Tongji University, to discuss disasters and future preparedness.

'Fluke mentality:' If you think you're safe from natural disasters, think again

A rainstorm in July caused some flooding in some areas of Shanghai.

Q: Metropolises in China, such as Shanghai and Shenzhen, are all densely populated with rapid development, so how do we balance urban risks and economic development?

A: We should note that extreme weather brought about by climate change is an unavoidable problem for every city, and cities have their limits. What we must do is put human lives before everything else. Disaster alerts need to play a bigger role, and plans need to be in place to relocate people at imminent risk of a disaster and to close schools.

'Fluke mentality:' If you think you're safe from natural disasters, think again

Water pumps work to drain water from a Metro station in the southern city of Shenzhen, which suffered record rainfall from Typhoon Haikui.

Q: How do we improve the resilience of a city to cope with natural disasters?

A: It's a problem that needs to be considered from an urban planning standpoint. In developing plans for new urban areas, we should consider a locale's relationship with its original water systems. After a city is built, we need to pay attention to drainage systems to see if they need upgrading or maintenance.

At the same time, different departments of government need to coordinate in devising more timely and accurate emergency plans.

We also need to educate the public on how people can protect themselves and rescue themselves if the situation arises. We need to get rid of the "fluke mentality." Natural disasters can happen to anyone.

'Fluke mentality:' If you think you're safe from natural disasters, think again

A landslide caused by Typhoon Haikui killed at least 10 people in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. A rescue team uses a rubber boat to ferry school pupils to safety.

Q: What about Shanghai? How well prepared is this city?

A: Like many other cities, Shanghai sits on a delta and is prone to water logging. In fact, it happened just last month after a rainstorm hit. A short, heavy rainfall may exceed the city's drainage capacity in no time. The security of the city would be severely challenged if a typhoon, rainstorm, astronomical high tide and upstream flooding converged here.

Currently, the city is quite well prepared. Take typhoons for example. There are detailed emergency guidelines for government entities such as Metro lines, municipal administration and power authorities to follow. The quality of the public alert system has also been improving in recent years. Because of all this, the city is able to bounce back to normal quickly after severe rainstorms.

Shanghai's "2022-2035 Disaster Prevention and Relief Plan" will improve our disaster control ability.

In the future, Shanghai needs to apply the latest technology into disaster control.

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