Quake Mayor’s focus on elderly wins award
MADRID, 6 October 2014 - The European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction (EFDRR) today presented the mayor of the Spanish town of Lorca with the Damir Čemerin award for his work in caring for the elderly, and promoting disaster reduction awareness, following a devastating earthquake in 2011.
Mayor Francisco Jódar Alonso said that he accepted the award with pleasure and sadness. Pleasure for the recognition of the tremendous work done by many, many people following the earthquake that struck on May 11, 2011, killing nine people and destroying over 1,000 homes. But sadness because he would rather that the earthquake had not happened at all and that there was nothing to reward.
“It was a catastrophe. We did not know how to respond, but we did,” said Mr Jódar in accepting the award, which recognizes the resilience-building efforts of individuals working at the community level. The award is named in honour of Mr Damir Čemerin, a founder member of EFDRR, who died in 2013 after long service in support of disaster risk reduction in his home country of Croatia as well as at the international level.
In 2013, the first year the award was made, the honour went to Dr Ilan Kelman of the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo for his work in linking disaster risk reduction with climate change adaptation.
Mayor Jódar told the 5th annual meeting of the EFDRR, meeting in Madrid, that local authorities in Lorca had to look after 30,000-40,000 people who were driven from their homes by the quake, measuring over 5.0 on the Richter scale. Telephone lines were cut and pharmacies were inaccessible.
The elderly were a particular concern. “If the quake was traumatic for the general population, it was even worse for the elderly,” Mr Jódar said.
The elderly were quickly evacuated from residences and hospitals, with many sent to nearby towns. Within less than a year, all the old people had been able to return to residential homes in the town in the province of Murcia, an earthquake-prone zone of southeast Spain.
Next Monday, October 13, is International Day for Disaster Reduction which focusses on the theme of the older persons and disasters.
Although earthquakes cannot be predicted, Lorca will be in a better position to handle any future quakes, the mayor added. “Earthquakes cannot be predicted, but you can predict how to react to them,” he said. Lorca is now better prepared for disaster. It has tougher new building regulations and information on how to respond has been given out, including in schools. But there was still more to do, he added.
“We cannot change what happened, but we can learn from it,” the mayor said.
The 5th EFDDR is being hosted by the Spanish General Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergencies and is being run in collaboration with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Council of Europe. The meeting is discussing disaster risk reduction activities in the context of proposals to take to the Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction to be held in Japan in March 2015.