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Mark Shwartz, News Service (650) 723-9296; e-mail:

Stanford launches Pacific Rim disaster initiative

Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and typhoons are an everyday threat to people living along the Pacific Ocean.

To prepare for the consequences of such natural disasters, Stanford and three other agencies have launched an international partnership known as "Crowding the Rim." The two-year initiative will develop strategies to deal with the economic and social repercussions that inevitably follow when a major catastrophe strikes the Pacific Rim -- a vast, geographical region that includes Australia, Japan, China, Korea, Russia, Canada, the United States and the Pacific nations of Latin America,

"Every year, somewhere on Earth at least 30 volcanoes erupt, an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or greater rips loose, and numerous typhoons and hurricanes crash onto our continents," said David Howell, co-chair of the initiative. "And every year the human population increases, people migrate to the coastal regions and our global economies become increasingly interwoven."

Howell, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), was one of several officials who attended a May 16 ceremony at Encina Hall during which representatives from Stanford, the American Red Cross, the USGS and the Circum-Pacific Council signed a memorandum of understanding committing their resources in support of "Crowding the Rim."

Noting that the Pacific Rim soon will have a population of 2 billion, Howell warned that "our societies are playing chicken with Mother Nature. We can't stop natural hazards, but if we work together, we can reduce their disastrous consequences."

Donald Kennedy, president emeritus of Stanford and co-chair of the initiative, announced that Stanford will host a three-day summit in August 2001 to be attended by more than 200 international disaster experts who will define the natural risks facing their regions and determine how they interconnect with other Pacific Rim countries. Once the risks have been determined, attendees will send letters to political leaders back home.


By Mark Shwartz

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