Following a sudden-onset disaster (SOD), rapid information is needed. We assessed the relevance of information available for relief planning on a main Internet portal following a major SOD.
We reviewed all information posted on the Reliefweb Web site in the first 7 days following the 2005 South Asian earthquake using a predeveloped registration form focusing on essential indicators. These data were compared with Pakistani government figures posted by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.
A total of 820 reports were reviewed. More reports came from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs; 35%) than any other source. A total of 42% of reports addressed only national level information, while 32% specified information at the provincial level. Fewer than 12% of all reports discussed the earthquake at the more local division and district levels. Only 13 reports provided pre-earthquake estimates of the number of people living in the affected areas. A third of all reports cited a common figure of 2.5 million made homeless. These were lower than official figures of 5 million homeless. A total of 43% reported on the estimated number of deaths. The estimated number peaked on day 4 at 40 000. All of these reports were lower than official data, which reported 73 000 deaths in total.
Early reports heavily underestimated the number of affected, homeless, injured, and dead. Many reports repeated information provided from previous unnamed sources rather than providing unique contributions from eyewitness reports or from contextual information based on previous work in the area. Better information on predisaster essential indicators should be available and used in combination with post-SOD information to better adapt humanitarian relief and funding according to needs. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2013;7:251-256)
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