Analysing vulnerability to volcanic hazards: application to St. Vincent

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Doctor of Philosophy
Title Analysing vulnerability to volcanic hazards: application to St. Vincent
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2010
Volcanology and volcanic risk assessment have in the past been strongly
biased towards pure physical sciences and the study of hazard
mechanisms. Traditional vulnerability analyses undertaken at volcanoes
have focused on the vulnerability of buildings and the probabilities of loss
of life given proximity to a volcanic hazard. These alone, however, cannot
explain losses from historical volcanic eruptions. There is an additional
strong vulnerability component to volcanic disasters that includes
livelihoods, demographics of the population, and economic resources.
This thesis reports research findings on vulnerability to volcanic hazards
on the island of St. Vincent in the Eastern Caribbean. Four different
methods are used to conduct a vulnerability analysis entailing: calculation
of a Social Vulnerability Index, analysis of building vulnerability, creation of
stakeholder mental maps, and evaluation of historical vulnerability. This
mixed-method approach has been adopted as it combines both traditional
quantitative methods with qualitative techniques. Only by applying such a
range of methods at one location is one able to appraise the methods and
compare the geography of the different elements of vulnerability captured.
The results show that high levels of social and building vulnerability do not
coincide, and that proximity to the threat was the most important variable
identified by stakeholders. The historical analysis suggests that
vulnerability on St. Vincent is a product of the island’s colonial history, and
years of slavery, indentured labour, and the culture of migration for work
and education abroad. It was determined that in the case of St. Vincent,
no single method is able to capture all elements of vulnerability that are
important to stakeholders. This research provides evidence of the need
for context-specific vulnerability analyses that utilise a variety of
quantitative and qualitative methods, rather than the broad application of
global standardised metrics.

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