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Simultaneous compound disasters from COVID-19 and catastrophic flooding
In this letter to the editor, the authors discuss the lessons provided to authories by the compound effect of COVID-19 and flooding in Henan Province, China. The devastating COVID-19 pandemic is a major threat to human health, despite the implementation of control measures. Coincidently, a massive once-in-1000 year flood occurred in Henan Province, China, with tremendous loss of life and assets. According to the researchers, the subsequent disaster responses suggest that authorities were inadequately prepared for the compound effects of these disasters.
The co-incidence of the COVID-19 pandemic and these deadly floods offer the below lessons:
- More resilient attention to forecasts and meteorological warnings, pre-event mobilisation of civil protection teams, including use of military services, early identification of places of safety, assignment of transport and logistic services, provision of sufficient emergency accommodation and food, mobilisation of psychological support for highly impacted family units, in conjunction with community support.
- Rescue people that are immediately threatened by flooding and minimise the immediate impact of flood-associated epidemic diseases.
- Aggressive precaution to minimise any potential COVID-19 transmission, e.g. use of protective equipment during transportation, and establishment of quarantine zones with sufficient medical support, food and water. In July 2021, however, this response was complicated in Henan due to the paucity of dry land and infrastructure for immediate quarantine use, due to the substantial extent of the flooding (Ma & Qian, 2021).
- In future, more comprehensive crisis management planning must be put in place to foresee any unexpected natural disasters. The huge flooding in the region was unexpected, due to an historical lack of substantial rainfall, and the authorities were unprepared for such a major flood disaster, despite substantial upgrades to the upstream water retention systems having been in place for many years, which proved to be insufficient.