Graduation Year

2003

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Geography

Major Professor

Tobin, Graham A.

Keywords

mount tungurahua, evacuations, emergency management, risk perception, volcanic eruptions

Abstract

How people pereceive the risks associated with natural hazards contributes to their willingness to take protective action. Such action may be constrained by prevailing socio-economic and place-specific conditions that restrict or inform the choice of protective measures available to the individual. Vulnerability to the impacts of extreme geophysical events increases when the range of alternatives is limited or misinformed. Many evacuees from a potentially violent volcanic eruption in Ecuador returned to their home town of Banos while it was still under an evacuation order in 2000 and considered to be a high risk area by officials.

The research examined four main questions: (1) What economic conditions confronted Baños evacuees? (2) What political or other social events occurred while they were evacuated that limited their perceived range of options? (3) What information was available about prior eruptions of the volcano and other local natural hazards? and (4) What were the characteristics of the economic base of Baños? These questions were investigated using data from interviews with evacuees, government and non-governmental officials, census and other statistical information, scholarly texts and newspaper reports. The research suggests that economic conditions made it extremely difficult for people to relocate to other communities. When a violent eruption did not occur immediately, and few direct impacts of the eruptions were experienced in Banos, many people chose to return home in an effort to reestablish themselves economically.

These people perceived the volcano hazard in Baños to be far less threatening than the economic destitution associated with evacuation. This perception may have been influenced by factors other than the socio-economic context, including efforts of political leaders and tourist business owners to effect the town's economic recovery. These efforts included an aggressive publicity campaign that minimized the risk posed by the volcano. Besides encouraging tourists to return, the campaign also encouraged evacuees to do so. Finally, among some residents, religious beliefs may have contributed to perceptions that they would not be harmed in the event of an explosive eruption.

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