1999 Floods in Veracruz and the Paradigm of Vulnerability

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Disaster Research Center
This study examines the distribution of warnings and of services to victims of the 1999 floods in Veracruz, Mexico and offers a criticism of vulnerability as the dominant paradigm guiding national and international disaster-related programs. It has sections on the vulnerability paradigm, the 1999 flood, and the methods used in the analysis. The information comes from a survey of 385 head of households flood victims residing in three cities in the north of Veracruz, Poza Rica, Gutierrez Zamora, and Tecolutla. The results indicate that government services to the population threatened by the floods were almost nonexistent. Radio programming and personal relations with friends, neighbors, and kin, were the most important sources of warnings about the hazard. The respondents’ integration in their communities and the social organizations of these communities were key determinants of their receipt of warnings and assistance such as vertical evacuation sheltering. Authorities should place much greater emphasis than they do now on facilitating the use of vertical evacuation and the service of radio stations providing information to communities at risk of extreme weather events, improving their weather and disaster-preparedness programming and making radios available to people in areas at risk of severe weather and other hazards. Disaster preparedness and mitigation need to be made part of their efforts in community development, encouraging the growth of social capital that can be used for disaster response and recovery. The implications of these findings for the continued use of the paradigm of vulnerability that provides guidelines to present-day international assistance at times of disasters are considered.
floods, Veracruz, Mexico, disaster