Articles | Volume 15, issue 7
Research article
 | Highlight paper
03 Jul 2015
Research article | Highlight paper |  | 03 Jul 2015

A contribution to the selection of tsunami human vulnerability indicators: conclusions from tsunami impacts in Sri Lanka and Thailand (2004), Samoa (2009), Chile (2010) and Japan (2011)

P. González-Riancho, B. Aliaga, S. Hettiarachchi, M. González, and R. Medina

Abstract. After several tsunami events with disastrous consequences around the world, coastal countries have realized the need to be prepared to minimize human mortality and damage to coastal infrastructures, livelihoods and resources. The international scientific community is striving to develop and validate methodologies for tsunami hazard and vulnerability and risk assessments. The vulnerability of coastal communities is usually assessed through the definition of sets of indicators based on previous literature and/or post-tsunami reports, as well as on the available data for the study site. The aim of this work is to validate, in light of past tsunami events, the indicators currently proposed by the scientific community to measure human vulnerability, to improve their definition and selection as well as to analyse their validity for different country development profiles. The events analysed are the 2011 Great Tohoku tsunami, the 2010 Chilean tsunami, the 2009 Samoan tsunami and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The results obtained highlight the need for considering both permanent and temporal human exposure, the former requiring some hazard numerical modelling, while the latter is related to site-specific livelihoods, cultural traditions and gender roles. The most vulnerable age groups are the elderly and children, the former having much higher mortality rates. Female mortality is not always higher than male mortality and not always related to dependency issues. Higher numbers of disabled people do not always translate into higher numbers of victims. Besides, it is clear that mortality is not only related to the characteristics of the population but also of the buildings. A high correlation has been found between the affected buildings and the number of victims, being very high for completely damaged buildings. Distance to the sea, building materials and expected water depths are important determining factors regarding the type of damage to buildings.

Short summary
Human vulnerability indicators used by the scientific community are validated in light of past tsunamis (2011 Japan, 2010 Chile, 2009 Samoa, 2004 Indian Ocean). Temporal exposure depends on livelihoods, traditions and gender roles. Vulnerable age groups are the elderly (highest mortality rates) and children. Female mortality is not always higher. There is a high correlation between damaged buildings and victims; distance to the sea, building materials and water depths determine type of damage.
Final-revised paper