Focus On: Disasters

A resource for journalists to find stories and sources.

At Asia Research News, we have a strong network of researchers at institutes throughout Asia and beyond. Every couple of months our Focus On series highlights ongoing research and expertise around one theme or topic.

Below are researchers from Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore who are prepared to speak with international media about different types of disasters and related research. Their expertise includes disaster planning and mitigation, recovery and resettlement, resilient urban planning and development. They study tsunamis, earthquakes, typhoons, tornados, flooding, sink holes, cave-ins, and drought. Some build rescue robots and design better models for evacuations. Others analyze past climate to better predict future trends and understand how climate change is affecting natural disasters like hurricanes and cyclones. Many work with international agencies and collaborate with partners around the world. We invite journalists to contact these experts directly, or reach out to us at [email protected] if you need help finding a source.

You can see other Focus On lists, including for Covid-19, here.

HONG KONG 

Dr. Jianfeng Li

Department of Geography
Hong Kong Baptist University
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: Hydroclimatology, Climate extremes, Water hazards
Languages comfortable speaking: English, Chinese

Dr Jianfeng Li is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography, and the deputy director of the Centre for Geo-computation Studies of Hong Kong Baptist University. His major research interests include hydroclimatology, environmental change, and water hazards, focusing on climate change impacts on hydrological processes and the environment. See full profile.

Selected links:
HKBU research reveals greater flood risks in the coastal region of China due to slower tropical cyclone movement - Asia Research News
Researchers report human-perceived temperature rising faster than actual air temperature - Phys.org

 

INDIA

Professor R.B. Singh

Secretary General and Treasurer 
International Geographical Union (IGU)
Email: [email protected] 
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: disaster risk reduction, environment and health, sustainable urban development, Climate-Water-Agriculture Linkages
Languages comfortable speaking: English, Hindi

Singh is a professor at the University of Delhi, and has specialized in land use and environmental studies, climate change, urban regional development, disaster management, remote sensing and GIS. He is now the Secretary General and Treasurer of the International Geographical Union, and served as IGU's vice president from 2012-2020. He is a member of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). He is also a scientific committee member of the International Science Council for Urban Health and Wellbeing. He chaired the Research Council at the Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, one of India's Council of Scientific & Industrial Research Labs. See full profile.

 

JAPAN 

Professor Satoshi Tadokoro

Graduate School of Information Sciences
Tohoku University
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: Rescue Robotics
Languages comfortable speaking: Japanese, English

Professor Tadokoro is a recognized leader in the field of rescue robotics, having developed and deployed robots in real world situations. For example, he and his research team developed the robots Quince and Active Scope Camera, which responded to the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Tadokoro directs Tohoku University's Tough Cyberphysical AI Research Center. He is president of the International Rescue System Institute, and a past president of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society. He served as project manager of the Japan Cabinet Office ImPACT Tough Robotics Challenge Project on disaster robotics from 2014-19, which included 62 international PIs and 300 researchers that created several robots, including the Cyber Rescue Canine and the Dragon Firefighter, the first flying hose robot for extinguishing fires. See full profile. 

Selected links: 
ImPACT Tough Robotics Challenge - YouTube

 

Assoc. Prof. Sébastien P. Boret

International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS)
Tohoku University
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: mass death, grief, memorials, memory, religion
Languages comfortable speaking: English, French

Sébastien P. Boret is an Oxford trained anthropologist of disaster, death, grief, public health, disaster and the environment in Japan and Indonesia. Sébastien is the author of articles and the books "Japanese Tree Burial: Ecology, Kinship and the Culture of Death" and "Death in the Early Twenty-first Century: Authority, Innovation and Mortuary Rites." See full profile. 

 

Professor Fumihiko Imamura

International research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS)
Tohoku University
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: Disaster Science, Tsunami Engineering
Languages comfortable speaking: Japanese, English

Professor Fumihiko Imamura’s expertise is in tsunami modeling for warning, mitigation planning and education/awareness. He has conducted several field surveys and led earthquake and tsunami damage investigations since the 1992 disasters in Nicaragua and Indonesia. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, he has focused on hazard and risk evaluation. Imamura is director of the International Research Institute of Disaster Science at Tohoku University, and secretary of the international TIME-project (Tsunami Inundation Modeling Exchange) supported by IOC and IUGG Tsunami commission. See full profile

Selected links:
Pollution creates 'black tsunami' risk - UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction 
What is the "silent tsunami" approaching the mystery of the "40m huge tsunami" - Teller Report 

 

Assoc. Prof. Takako Izumi

International Strategy for Disaster Mitigation, Regional and Urban Reconstruction Research Division
International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS)
Tohoku University
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: Disaster risk reduction, Disaster risk management, International collaboration, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, Humanitarian assistance
Languages comfortable speaking: Japanese, English

Izumi has more than 15 years experience in disaster response, recovery, risk reduction with UN agencies and NGOs before joining Tohoku University. For example, Izumi worked for the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the UN Recovery Coordinator for Aceh and Nias in Indonesia. See full profile. 

Selected links:
Disaster preparedness would improve HE pandemic response - APRU

 

Assoc. Prof. Anawat Suppasri

International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS)
Tohoku University
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: Tsunami, warning, evacuation, damage, disaster risk reduction 
Languages comfortable speaking: Thai, Japanese, English

Suppasri works on the world's two most devastating tsunami disasters, the 2004 Indian Ocean and 2011 Japan tsunamis. Suppasri has helped evaluate damage caused by earthquakes and tsunamis and advised governments and United Nations organizations on best practices for risk mitigation and recovery. Suppasri is involved in numerous international collaborations, including damage assessment and emergency management with University College London (UCL) and other universities in South East Asia. See full profile. 

Selected links:
Thai PBS tsunami coverage - YouTube
Sendai Disaster Resilient and Environmentally Friendly City
【ゴジだっちゃ!】- NHK Blog (Japanese)
Miyagi fishing port flooded to a height of 2.2 meters due to the Fukushima-oki Earthquake - Nekkei (Japanese)

 

Assoc. Prof. Erick Mas 

International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS)
Tohoku University
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: tsunami, evacuation simulation, agent-based modeling, disaster damage estimation
Languages comfortable speaking: Spanish, English

Mas has been researching disaster science for over 15 years. He uses geoinformatics and simulation technologies to estimate tsunami impacts and ways to evacuate. He developed a tsunami evacuation model using agent-based modeling that was applied on multiple locations in Asia and South America. Mas is involved with various international collaboration projects, such as SATREPS and M9 Disaster Science, with counterparts in Latin American countries. See full profile.

 

Assoc. Prof. Kanako Iuchi

International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS)
Tohoku University
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: post-disaster resettlement, recovery planning, post-disaster rebuilding, international development, community development 
Languages comfortable speaking: English, Japanese

Iuchi has been working in the field of international development planning and disaster risk management for more than 25 years, specializing in disaster management planning, urban and regional planning, and community development. Currently, Iuchi conducts longitudinal research in the disaster-stricken areas on topics of community relocation, post-disaster planning, and governance. See full profile.

 

Assoc. Prof. Yo Fukushima

International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS)
Tohoku University
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: Earthquakes, Volcanic unrests
Languages comfortable speaking: English, Japanese

Fukushima's research focus includes the mechanisms of earthquake occurrence and volcanic eruption using satellite data. He has worked on Philippine fault, an earthquake in Myammar, Piton de la Fornaise volcano in the Indian Ocean, a mud volcano on the Java island, etc., in addition to earthquakes/volcanoes in Japan. See full profile

 

Professor Yuichi Ono 

International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS)
Tohoku University
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: tornado and severe wind-related disasters, international disaster risk reduction policymaking process
Languages comfortable speaking: English, Japanese

Ono has studied tornado disasters in the U.S., Japan, and Bangladesh since the 1990s, and proposed tornado disaster risk reduction strategies in Bangladesh by developing storm shelters. Ono has also been engaged in international disaster risk reduction policy making processes during his working experiences in the UN system. See full profile

 

Professor Kimiro Meguro

International Center for Urban Safety Engineering (ICUS)
Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo (UTokyo-IIS)
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: Urban Disaster Mitigation Engineering
Languages comfortable speaking: English, Japanese 

Merguo specializes in developing new simulations for structures during earthquakes, and simulations for evacuating large numbers of people during different types of disasters. He has advised policymakers in disaster planning, and is a past president of the Japan Association of Earthquake Engineering. He and colleagues are currently investigating both hardware and software approaches to acheive a balance between disaster mitigation, preparedenss, response, and recovery/reconstruction. See full profile. 

 

Professor Reiko Kuwano

Department of Human and Social Systems
Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Toky (UTokyo-IIS)
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: geotechnical engineering, sinkhole, road cave-in, internal erosion of soil
Languages comfortable speaking: English, Japanese

Kuwano has been investigating the detailed mechanism of internal erosion of soil, which can be the trigger of the formation and expansion of subsurface cavities. Those cavities may cause sinkholes or road cavities. See full profile.

 

Assoc. Prof. Muneyoshi Numada

Department of Human and Social Systems
Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo (UTokyo-IIS)
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: disaster management process engineering, Disaster Management Training Center (DMTC)
Languages comfortable speaking: English, Japanese

The Disaster Management Training Center (DMTC) will research, develop and standardize concrete disaster management training and education systems suitable for both Japan and international society. At the same time, in order to provide the highest standard of education and training content, DMTC will cooperate with central government ministries and the latest research, knowledge and technology related to disaster response will be used. DMTC is creating a knowledge-creation and sharing network with international society. See full profile

 

MALAYSIA 

Dr. Ruhizal Roosli

School of Housing, Building and Planning
Universiti Sains Malaysia
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: Disaster Management, Post-Disaster Reconstruction, Development Planning, Housing Studies
Languages comfortable speaking: English

Roosli is a lecturer and researcher in Disaster and Development at Universiti Sains Malaysia. For about 20 years, his work has focused on settlement in ASEAN countries in normal and emergency situations. See full profile.

 

MYANMAR

Myat Thet Thitsar

Co-Founder and Executive Director
Enlighted Myanmar Research Foundation (EMReF)
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: social and socio-economic impacts of Cyclone Nargis, international aid, developments in developing countries, post-disaster recovery, political economy.
Languages comfortable speaking: English, Myanmar

Myat Thet Thistsar heads the Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation, a nonprofit think tank in Myanmar conducting independent research. With support from the World Bank and others, she led research efforts to study the social impacts of the 2008 Cyclone Nargis, starting six months after the cyclone devastated parts of Myanmar and continuing 10 years after. This long-term study provided unique, local insight into village response and recovery; the role of international aid and how it can sometimes be well-intentioned but ineffective; and how other factors like climate change are slowing, or in some cases accelerating, recovery. EMReF continues to study social issues around developments, armed conflicts and COVID 19, alongside other topics such as livelihoods, gender equality and governance. See full profile.

Selected links:
Tackling a known unknown: How post-disaster aid can provide what people really need - World Bank
Social Impact Assessments - EMReF

 

Win Myo Thu

Co-Founding Member and Managing Director
Association of Advancing Life And Regenerating Motherland (ALARM)
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: deforestation, flooding, disaster planning, socioeconomic impacts of disasters, Myanmar, international development, rural communities, forest management, natural resources, climate change, pollution
Languages comfortable speaking: English, Myanmar


Win Myo Thu is co-founder and managing director of ALARM, one of Myanmar's leading environmental think tanks. He is an expert in forest and natural resource management and policy, working to defend the resource rights of the poor and most disadvantaged communities. He contributes to national and international environmental policymaking efforts, including United Nations frameworks. He is working to transform Myanmar into a climate-adaptive society and establish a national system to monitor and address environmental pollution and crime. See full profile.

Selected links:
The deforestation dilemma in Myanmar - The Asia Dialogue
Flooding spurs disaster zones in Myanmar - New York Times
A Bright Spot for the Obama Foreign Policy in the Mines and Forests of Myanmar? - HuffPost
Win Myo Thu: 'Deforestation is particularly worrying' - The Irrawaddy

 

SINGAPORE

Asst. Prof. Chris Gouramanis

Department of Geography
National University of Singapore
Email: [email protected]
Areas of expertise prepared to comment on: typhoon, tsunami, drought
Languages comfortable speaking: English

Gouramanis researches geological evidence of modern and past typhoons, tsunami and droughts in coastal and lake environments across Southeast Asia. In particular, he focuses on recent events and compares these to the geological record to understand frequencies, recurrence and intensities to guide the potential impact of future events. See full profile.