SIU disaster expert on Hurricane Harvey - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

SIU disaster expert on Hurricane Harvey

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WSIL -- SIU Associate Professor of Anthropology Roberto Barrios has spent the last two decades studying disasters like Hurricane Harvey. 

Barrios says that the damage created by Harvey is some of the worst he's seen, and that it will likely take years, even decades, for some people to recover from, but adds that people need to see it not as just a freak event.

"Disasters, as we're seeing with Harvey, are not just natural events," he said. "They're also social events. Therefore, they become very important windows for us to take very hard look at our society, to understand what we've been doing right and what we've been doing wrong."

He says that when a disaster like this happens, it's crucial to ask questions about what the priorities in recovery should be, including where resources should go. 

After Hurricane Katrina, he says those resources went to rebuild areas that were economically prosperous, not necessarily where they were needed most.

"That left some of the most vulnerable sectors of the city, left them out to be the least attended to in the reconstruction process," he said.

Barrios adds that while it is important to help through volunteering and donating money, it will be important to research and learn from Harvey to avoid the same type of destruction if it happens again.

"We all want to be the immediate hero, we all want be in the boat rescuing and that is important," he said. "I take nothing away from the Americans who are doing that, but ultimately it's about also reflecting and answering these bigger questions where its not as flashy, not as dramatic, but its critically important to make sure that a natural hazard does not become disaster."

Barrios says that we won't know the full extent of Harvey's damage for years.

If you would like to donate to Hurricane Harvey relief, we have a list of agencies who are making a difference.

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