Thursday, 18 June 2015

Ghana: Death toll in June 3 disaster now 159

Seven more bodies have been recovered after the June 3 disaster which had earlier claimed 152 lives in Accra, Vice-President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur has indicated. This brings to 159 the number of people confirmed dead from the twin flood and fire disaster.

Recounting the Accra twin disaster that rocked the country on June 3, 2015, Mr Amissah-Arthur said currently there were about 34 patients on admission at the 37 Military, the Ridge, the Police and the Korle Bu Teaching hospitals.

Briefing development partners on the current situation at the Flagstaff House in Accra Wednesday, the Vice-President said there were additional 70 outpatients with various injuries seeking medical attention at the hospitals.

The meeting with the development partners was for the government to formally inform them about the disaster and also seek their support to avert a future occurrence. Mr Amissah-Arthur told the partners that the government wanted to unravel the cause of the disaster and in so doing develop mechanisms to parent a recurrence.

He used the occasion to again commiserate with the bereaved families and reaffirmed the government’s pledge to underwrite the medical bills of the victims.

A drainage engineer, Mr Wise Ametefe, who made a presentation on the drainage system in Accra to the partners, said there were inadequate water channels in the Accra metropolis, which made it impossible for flood water to flow freely.

He observed that the interceptor at the Korle Lagoon needed to be cleared to pave way for easy passage of water and that the parking of cars on the banks of the channels was a contributory factor to the flooding phenomenon.

Mr Ametepe underscored the need to desilt the Odaw River to help prevent another disaster in the city

The acting Co-ordinator of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), Brigadier General Francis Vib-Sanziri, told the Daily Graphic that his office was currently collaborating with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to respond to the reported cases of cholera in Accra following the disaster.

He remarked that NADMO’s immediate response was the distribution of relief items to the affected people and trying to prevent an epidemic from breaking out in those areas.

Brigadier General Vib-Sanziri added that NADMO was trying to mobilise various teams in sectors such as the ministries of Health and Education to plan how to respond to the disaster.

He pointed out that not only was Accra affected by the recent floods, but NADMO was also receiving concerns from and sending relief items to the various regions that had also been affected by floods.

Thursday 18 June 2015

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NASA harnesses space technology to find victims of natural disasters

While Google recently made news with a patent filing for drones that could provide emergency medical services, NASA has long been finding ways to take their innovative space-bound technology find a way to apply it to everyday life on Earth.

Most recently, NASA is taking their advances designed to explore the likes of Jupiter and Saturn and apply it directly to saving lives.

The NASA Jet Propulsion Lab team worked with the Department of Homeland Security to develop a version of this space exploration system to rescue humans in disasters. The cutting-edge Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER) technology recently saved four lives in during a collapse of a textile factory and another building in village of Chautara in Nepal.

What exactly is FINDER? It is a portable, lightweight, 20-pound radar detector that is about the size of an average suitcase. The detector is ideal for finding people trapped under debris from natural disasters like avalanches, earthquakes, and wildfires. The sooner a victim can be located, the sooner they can be rescued and receive medical care. The time it takes to find them can mean the difference between life and death.

How does it work?

FINDER locates people by sending out a low-powered microwave signal through the rubble. The signal is about a mere one-thousandth of a typical smartphone's output.

It then looks for changes in the reflections of those signals that reverberate back to the device. These changes are caused by the tiny movements a person may make.

In fact, when NASA tested FINDER, the detector could pinpoint a person’s heartbeat buried beneath a whopping 20 feet of solid concrete. It could also detect a heartbeat beneath 30 feet of rubble.

To systematically sweep a disaster zone, rescue teams can take a laptop and run the FINDER software. They can program this tech to scan a specific. It then analyzes the microwaves that bounce back.

FINDER seeks out typical human motions like the chest rising and falling while breathing. The program alerts the rescuers to where the signal is strongest to help narrow down the location. It is even so precise that is can differentiate between the heartbeats of a human and those of an animal.

NASA built four new FINDER prototypes in just one year. These prototypes underwent extensive testing by first responder teams in seven states — California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Virginia.

NASA engineers brought FINDER to search and rescue teams to test how the tech would perform in a range of disaster scenarios.

Saving lives

FINDER got to prove what it could do in its rescue of the four men in Chautara, which was impacted by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal in April. The men were trapped under approximately 10 feet of debris like brick wood and mud. This was the first time that this detection technology was used in an actual disaster.

“The true test of any technology is how well it works in a real-life operational setting,” aid Reginald Brothers, Department of Homeland Security’s under secretary for science and technology, in a release. Of course, no one wants disasters to occur, but tools like this are designed to help when our worst nightmares do happen. I am proud that we were able to provide the tools to help rescue these four men.”

NASA sees a lot of potential for FINDER, with the possibility for it to be applied to augment drone deployment to locate victims to even monitoring — from a safe distance — contagious patients who are kept in quarantine.

Thursday 17 June 2015

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