Natural Hazards Management in Asia


Indrajit Pal & Tuhin Ghosh

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    Dedicated to all the victims

    List of Tables

    List of Figures


    We are quite familiar with the constant media barrage of natural hazards and their impacts, amplifying the threat of such disasters. The natural hazards can no longer be left solely to nature to determine its fate. Infrastructure, property, economic activities, recreation, and tourism along with all the environmental components are under constant threat. Natural disasters are manifestations of natural hazards and human interventions. Some of the natural hazards could end up causing a disaster or catastrophe due to the unplanned development and lack of risk governance mechanism at various levels. Combating natural hazards is like a war against nature, and at present a widely examined topic.

    Hazards are inevitable, but disasters are not. By virtue of the geoclimatic conditions, most of the South Asian countries are exposed to multiple hazards, which sometimes lead to potential disasters and catastrophes. Enhancing disaster risk knowledge through the various levels of education is one of the major tasks to be performed for safer community. The disaster risk information at various levels through education will enhance the community capacity for effective and sustainable risk management. The resilient community-building process will also support us to achieve the seven targets and four priorities under the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR 2015–30). This book on natural hazards management examines the key issues that encompass the wise policy formulation for minimizing the impacts of such natural hazards in an Asian context. This documentation provides multiple perspectives and decisions surrounding this emergent issue while also plotting a course for the future of natural hazards management.

    The authors have attempted to characterize the probable hazards and the scenario of natural hazards management efforts in Asia, working from basic principles, with necessary scientific approach. The book also provides examples and real-time case studies that illustrate the magnitude of the impact of natural hazards, across the subcontinent. The authors have also discussed at length about the paradigm shift in disaster management with exposure to the use of modern technology, tools, and techniques. This book attempts to provide a holistic introductory outlook to a large cross-section of the academic communities, practitioners, and community-based organizations.


    This book is the result of a huge amount of work, research, and dedication. This would not have been possible if we did not have the support of many individuals and organizations. Therefore, we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all of them. We wish to express our sincere thanks to the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand, and Jadavpur University, India, for providing us with all the necessary facilities and support for the research.

    Putting this book together would not have been possible without the immense amount of behind-the-scenes and often unnoticed work done by the production team. Therefore, our sincere word of thanks also goes to the entire team of SAGE Publications for their continued support since the beginning of our publishing endeavors.

    Nobody has been more important to us in the pursuit of this project than the members of our family. We take this opportunity to express sincere thanks to our family for the unceasing encouragement and support throughout this venture. We are grateful to the God for the good health and well-being that were necessary to complete this book.

  • Glossary


    The adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic or other stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.


    Annual exceedance probability is the estimated probability that an event of specified magnitude will be exceeded in any year.


    Advanced Land Observing Satellite is a land-observing satellite launched in January 2006 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).


    The Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum was established in 1993 to enhance space activities in the Asia-Pacific region.


    An official examination and verification of accounts and records to analyze the legality and regularity of project expenditures and income, in accordance with laws, regulations, and contracts, such as loan contracts and accounting rules. It also may analyze the efficient and effective use of funds.


    An avalanche describes a quantity of snow or ice that slides down a mountainside under the force of gravity. It occurs if the load on the upper snow layers exceeds the bonding forces of the entire mass of snow. It often gathers material that is underneath the snowpack such as soil, rock etc. (debris avalanche). Any kind of rapid snow/ice movement.

    Baseline Data:

    Initial information collected during an assessment, including facts, numbers, and descriptions. This information will allow us to do the comparison between the situation that exists before the disaster and measurement of the impact of the project implemented.

    Basic Needs:

    The items that people need to survive. They can include safe access to essential goods and services such as food, water, shelter, clothing, healthcare, sanitation, and education.

    Biological Disasters:

    Disasters caused by the exposure of living organisms to germs and toxic substances.

    Build Back Better (BBB):

    An approach to reconstruction to reduce vulnerability and improve living conditions, while promoting a more effective and sustainable reconstruction. BBB uses the opportunity of having to rebuild to examine the suitability of reconstructing in the same location and making a home warmer, drier, and cheaper to run.

    Building Code:

    A set of ordinances or regulations and associated standards intended to control aspects of the design, constructions, materials, alteration, and occupancy of structures that are necessary to ensure human safety and welfare, including resistance to collapse and damage.


    The process by which individuals, groups, and organizations build their knowledge, abilities, relationships, and values to solve problems and achieve development objectives. The impacts of capacity-building thus may be seen at different scales—individuals, households, communities, and governments.


    The combination of all physical, institutional, social, and/or economic strengths, attributes, and resources available within a community, society, or organization that can be used to achieve the agreed goals. It also includes collective attributes such as leadership and management.


    The physical, human, and social capital in any society.

    Cash Transfers:

    Direct payments or vouchers to provide resources to affected populations.

    Civil Society:

    Individuals and groups active between the governance and market, including the institutions within the interaction.

    Climate Change Resilience:

    The ability to resist, absorb, adapt to, and recover from meteorological changes attributed directly or indirectly to human activities that alter the composition of the global atmosphere or the natural climate variability.

    Climatological Disasters:

    Events caused by long-lived/meso to macroscale processes (in the spectrum from intraseasonal to multidecadal climate variability).

    Cold Wave:

    A cold wave can be both a prolonged period of excessively cold weather and the sudden invasion of very cold air over a large area. Along with frost, it can cause damage to agriculture, infrastructure, and property. The damage caused by low temperatures.

    Community Contracting:

    Procurement by or on behalf of a community. While there are many different models of community contracting, a common feature is that they seek to give the community degrees of control over investment and implementation, to encourage ownership and sustainability.


    A social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.


    Association of individuals, cutting across any geographical boundary, language, religion, ethnicity, etc.


    Complementarities refer to a situation where two or more factors increase each other's effects on performance.


    Outcomes of an event, such as a landslide hazard. Depend on the exposure and vulnerability of the elements-at-risk, such as human beings, houses, and infrastructure.

    Coping Capacity:

    The strength to face and overcome an adverse situation.


    Misuse of an entrusted position for private gain by using bribery, extortion, fraud, deception, collusion, and money laundering. Includes gains accruing to a person's family members, a political party, or an institution in which the person has an interest.

    Direct Costs (or Damage):

    Reconstruction costs incurred by total or partial destruction of the physical assets existing in the affected area. The damage occurs during and immediately after the disaster and is measured in physical units. Its monetary value, it is expressed in terms of replacement costs according to prices prevailing just before the event.

    Disaster Risk Management (DRM):

    Systematic process of using administrative directives, organizations, and operational skills and capacities to implement strategies, policies, and improved coping capacities to lessen the adverse impacts of hazards and the possibility of disaster.

    Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR):

    Concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyze and manage the causal factors of disasters. Results of DRR include reduced exposure to hazards, lessened vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improved preparedness.


    A situation or event that overwhelms local capacity, necessitating a request to a national or an international level for external assistance; an unforeseen and often sudden event that causes great damage, destruction, and human suffering.


    A long-lasting event triggered by a lack of precipitation. A drought is an extended period of time characterized by a deficiency in a region's water supply that is the result of constantly below average precipitation. A drought can lead to losses in agriculture, affect inland navigation and hydropower plants, and cause a lack of drinking water and famine.

    Early Warning System:

    The set of capacities needed to generate and disseminate timely and meaningful warning information to enable individuals, communities, and organizations threatened by a hazard to prepare and to act appropriately and in sufficient time to reduce the possibility of harm to or loss of life or livelihoods, injury, damage to property, and damage to the environment. A people-centered early warning system comprises four key elements. They are (a) knowing the risks; (b) monitoring, analyzing, and forecasting the hazards; (c) communicating or disseminating alerts and warnings; and (d) developing the local capacities to respond to the warnings. The term “end-to-end warning systems” is used to emphasize that warning systems need to span all steps from detecting hazards to the community's response.


    The shaking and displacement of ground due to seismic waves. This is the earthquake itself without secondary effects. An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of stored energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. They can be of tectonic or volcanic origin. At the Earth's surface, they are felt as a shaking or displacement of the ground. The energy released in the hypocenter can be measured in different frequency ranges. Therefore, there are different scales for measuring the magnitude of a quake according to a certain frequency range. These are (a) surface wave magnitude (Ms), (b) body wave magnitude (Mb), (c) local magnitude (ML); and (d) moment magnitude (Mw).

    Effective Recovery:

    Achieving the intended outcomes of medium- to long-term recovery such as the rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged infrastructure and the re-creation of sustainable livelihoods and income-generating opportunities.

    Efficient Recovery:

    Stabilizing lives and livelihoods to return to normal and rapidly restoring critical social, physical, and productive infrastructure and service delivery.


    The authority given to an institution, organization, or individual to determine policies and make decisions.

    Enabling Environment:

    The rules and regulations, both national and local, which provide a supportive environment for a specific activity, such as a community participation or DRM, to take place.


    Either an unusual increase in the number of cases of an infectious disease that already exists in the region or population concerned or the appearance of an infection disease previously absent from a region.


    The quality of being impartial and “fair” in the distribution of development benefits and costs and the provision of access of opportunities for all.

    EX-post Measures:

    Actions taken after a disaster has occurred to seek to mitigate or repair all damages caused by the disaster.


    People, property, systems, or other elements present in hazard zones that thereby are subject to potential losses.

    Extensive Risk:

    Widespread risk associated with the exposure of dispersed populations to repeated or persistent hazard conditions of low or moderate intensity, often of a localized nature. Such persisting exposure can have debilitating cumulative disaster impacts. This type of risk is a characteristic primarily of rural areas and urban margins. See also “risk” and “intensive risk.”

    Extreme Winter Condition:

    Damage caused by snow and ice. Winter damage refers to the damage to buildings, infrastructure, and traffic (especially navigation) inflicted by snow and ice in the form of snow pressure, freezing rain, frozen waterways, etc.


    A fracture inside the underground rock mass caused by shifting of the Earth's crust and energy released during the earthquake.

    Flash Food:

    Rapid inland floods due to intense rainfall. A flash flood describes sudden flooding with short duration. In sloped terrains, the water flows rapidly with a high destruction potential. In flat terrains, the rainwater cannot infiltrate into the ground or runoff (due to small slope) as quickly as it falls. Flash floods typically are associated with thunderstorms. A flash flood can occur at virtually any place.

    Flood Forecasting:

    Use of real-time precipitation and streamflow data in rainfall runoff and streamflow routing models to forecast flow rates and water levels from a few hours to a days ahead, depending on the size of the watershed or river basin.


    A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of normally dry land areas from (a) the overflow of inland or tidal waters, (b) the unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, or (c) mudflows or the sudden collapse inland of shoreline.


    A concrete or rigid wall on a levee, which protect low-lying lands from inundation by rising water.


    Definite statement or statistical estimate of the likely occurrence of a future event or conditions for a specific area.

    Forest fire:

    Fires in forests that cover extensive damage. They may start by natural causes such as volcanic eruptions or lightning, or they may be caused by arsonists or careless smokers, by those burning wood, or by clearing a forest area.


    The property of a good or a commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution.

    General Flood:

    Gradually rising inland floods (rivers, lakes, and ground-water) due to high total depth of rainfall or snowmelt. A general flood is caused when a body of water (river or lake) overflows its normal confines due to rising water levels. The term general flood additionally comprises the accumulation of water on the surface due to long-lasting rainfall (water logging) and the rise of the groundwater table above the surface. Furthermore, inundation by melting snow and ice, backwater effects, and special causes such as the outburst of a glacial lake or the breaching of a dam are subsumed under the term general flood. General floods can be expected at certain locations (e.g., along rivers) with a significantly higher probability than at others.

    Geophysical Disasters:

    Events originating from solid earth.

    Green Growth:

    Growth that is efficient in its use of natural resources; clean in that it minimizes pollution and environmental impacts and resilient in that it takes into account natural hazards and the role of environmental management and natural capital in preventing physical disasters.


    Natural process or phenomenon or human activity that has the potential to cause property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, and/or environmental degradation.

    Heat Wave:

    A heat wave is a prolonged period of excessively hot and sometimes also humid weather relative to the normal climate patterns of a certain region. A period of unusual hot weather, with higher surface temperature than normal, that last for a few days.


    The immediate physical environment, including the inside and outside of buildings, in which families and households live and so serves as a shelter.

    Housing-sector Assessment:

    Assessment that collects data including demographic, housing types, housing tenure status, settlement patterns before and after the disaster, government interventions in the housing sector, infrastructure access, construction capacity, and market capacity to provide materials and labor for reconstruction.

    Humanitarian Relief:

    A process that seeks to lead to sustainable development opportunities by generating self-sustaining processes for post-disaster recovery. Humanitarian relief encompasses livelihoods, shelter, governance, environment, and social dimensions, including the reintegration of displaced populations. It also addresses the underlying risks that contributed to the crisis.

    Hydrological Disasters:

    Events caused by deviations in the normal water cycle and/or overflow of bodies of water caused by wind setup.


    Systems and networks by which public services are delivered. These services include water supply and sanitation, energy and other utility networks, and transportation networks for all forms of travel.

    Insect infestation:

    Pervasive influx and development of insects or parasites affecting humans, animals, crops, and materials.

    Intensive Risk:

    The risk associated with the exposure of large concentrations of people and economic activities to intense hazard events that can lead to potentially catastrophic disaster impacts involving high mortality and asset loss. A characteristic primarily of large cities or densely populated areas that not only are exposed to intense hazards but also have high levels of vulnerability to them. See also “risk” and “extensive risk.”

    Key Performance indicators (KPIS):

    Quantitative and qualitative measures of project outputs and outcomes used to evaluate the progress of success of the project.


    Any kind of moderate to rapid soil movement including mudslide and debris flow. A landslide is the movement of soil or rock controlled by gravity, and the speed of the movement usually ranges between slow and rapid. It can be superficial or deep, but the materials have to make up a mass that is a portion of the slope or the slope itself. The movement has to be downward and outward with a free face.


    A high embankment or reinforced earth wall, which protects low-lying areas from inundation.


    The ways in which people earn access to the resources that they need, individually and communally, including food, water, clothing, and shelter.

    Local Windstorm (Orographic Storm):

    A local windstorm refers to strong winds caused by regional atmospheric phenomena which are typical for a certain area. These can be katabatic winds, foehn winds, mistral, bora, etc.

    Loss Assessment:

    An assessment that analyzes the changes in economic flows that occur after a disaster and over time, valued at current prices.


    This includes the decline in output in productive sectors and the lower revenues and higher operational costs in the provision of services. Also considered losses are the unexpected expenditures to meet emergency needs. Losses are expressed in current values.

    Meteorological Disasters:

    Events caused by short-lived/small to mesoscale atmospheric processes (in the spectrum from minutes to days).


    The use of reasonable care and diligence to minimize damage; to take protective action to avoid additional injury or loss, and to lessen or limit the adverse impact of hazards and disasters.


    The ongoing task of collecting and reviewing program-related information that pertains to the program's goals, objectives, and activities.

    Needs Assessment:

    The process for estimating (usually based on a damage assessment) the financial, technical, and human resources needed to implement the agreed program of recovery, reconstruction, and risk management.


    The central location for staff and materials during a disaster event.

    Nonstructural Measure:

    Any measure not involving physical construction that uses knowledge, practice, or agreement to reduce risks and impacts, particularly through policies and laws, public awareness-raising, training, and education. See also “structural measures.”

    Off-budget Financing:

    Could not be managed directly by the national government or is not comprised in its budget.

    On-budget Financing:

    Within the national government's control, including own-source revenue (OSR) as well as external funding and loans.


    People's participation in decision-making and policy formulation.


    A donor community or any group or individual taking part and sharing the responsibility of the reconstruction and recovery process. In contrast, see “stakeholders.”

    Physical Planning:

    A design exercise based on a land-use plan to propose optimal infrastructure for public services, transport, economic activities, recreation, and environmental protection for a settlement or area. A physical plan can have rural and urban components.


    A principle or protocol to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes.

    Post-disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA):

    A multisectoral assessment that measures the impact of disasters on the society, economy, and environment of the disaster-affected area.

    Preliminary Assessment:

    An assessment that provides immediate information on needs, possible interventions, and resource requirements. It may be conducted as a multisectoral assessment or in a single sector or location.


    The knowledge and capacities developed by governments, professional response and recovery organizations, communities, and individuals to effectively anticipate, respond to, and recover from the impacts of likely, imminent, or current hazard events or conditions.


    To avoid and minimize the adverse impact of related environmental, technological, and biological disasters by raising public awareness and providing education related to disaster risk reduction, changing attitudes and behavior.

    Prior Measures (ex ante):

    Actions taken in advance of a disaster in the expectation that they will either prevent or significantly reduce the impacts of a possible disaster.

    Project Outputs:

    Results of a project that are measurable at the immediate point of project completion.


    It focuses primarily on the construction or replacement of damaged physical structures, and the restoration of local services and infrastructure.

    Recovery Framework:

    A pragmatic, sequenced, prioritized, programmatic, yet living (and flexible) action plan that ensures resilient recovery after a disaster.


    Decisions and actions taken after a disaster to restore or improve the pre-disaster living conditions of the affected communities while encouraging and facilitating necessary adjustments to reduce disaster risk. It focuses not only on physical reconstruction but also on the revitalization of the economy and restoration of social and cultural life.


    The provision of assistance or intervention immediately after a disaster to meet the life preservation and basic subsistence needs of the persons affected.


    A process whereby a community's housing assets and public infrastructure are rebuilt in another location.

    Residual Risk:

    The risk that remains in unmanaged form, even when effective disaster risk-reduction measures are in place, and for which emergency response and recovery capacities must be maintained. The presence of residual risk implies a continuing need to develop and support effective capacities for emergency services, preparedness, response, and recovery together with socioeconomic policies such as safety nets and risk-transfer mechanisms.


    The ability of a system, community, or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate, and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential structures and functions. Resilience is determined by the degree to which the community has the necessary resources and is capable of organizing itself both prior to and during times of need.

    Resilient Recovery:

    Builds resilience during recovery and promotes resilience in regular development. Resilient recovery is a means to sustainable development. See also “resilience,” “recovery,” “disaster risk management,” and “disaster risk reduction.”


    The provision of emergency services and public assistance during or immediately after a disaster to save lives, reduce health impacts, ensure public safety, and meet the basic subsistence needs of the people affected. See also “humanitarian relief.”


    Rebuilding facilities in areas that are less prone to disasters and accessible to the community.


    Rebuilding facilities such that they adequately respond to the existing demand; for example, if classes are crowded, more classes could be built.


    The combination of the probability of an event and its negative consequences.

    Risk Transfer:

    The process of formally or informally shifting the financial consequences of particular risks from one party to another. In this transaction, one party (household, community, enterprise, or state authority) will obtain post-disaster resources from another party in exchange for ongoing or compensatory social or financial benefits.


    Quantities of rock or stone falling freely from a cliff face. It is caused by undercutting, weathering, or permafrost degradation.


    An investigation or discussion to determine the effect that a proposed policy or project would have on a community or the environment.


    Groups who have any direct or indirect interest in the recovery interventions, or who can affect or be affected by the implementation and outcomes. The term includes groups undertaking, managing, reporting on, affected by, promoting, and funding the interventions. Stakeholders include vulnerable segments of the population, local governments that are in direct dialogue with communities.

    Storm Surge:

    An abnormal rise in the sea along a shore primarily due to high winds. Coastal flood on coasts and lake shores induced by wind. A storm surge is the rise of the water level in the sea, an estuary, or a lake as result of strong wind driving the seawater towards the coast. This so-called wind setup is superimposed on the normal astronomical tide. The mean high water level can be exceeded by five and more meters. The areas threatened by storm surges are coastal lowlands.

    Structural Measure:

    Any physical construction to reduce or avoid possible impacts of hazards, or application of engineering techniques to achieve hazard-resistance and resilience in structures or systems. See also “nonstructural measures.”


    The downward motion of the Earth's surface relative to a datum (e.g., the sea level). Dry subsidence can be the result of geological faulting, isostatic rebound, or human impact (e.g., mining, extraction of natural gas). Wet subsidence can be the result of karst, changes in soil water saturation, permafrost degradation (thermokarst), etc.


    The principle by which matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralized competent authority.

    Sustainable Development:

    Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This 1987 Brundtland Commission definition does not address questions regarding the meaning of the word “development” and the social, economic, and environmental processes involved. Disaster risk is associated with unsustainable elements of development such as environmental degradation. Conversely, disaster risk reduction can contribute to sustainable development by reducing the process of development which meets the present day concerns without compromising with the ful-fillment of the concerns of future generation.


    Identification and recruitment by local communities, the government, or external agencies of potential assistance recipients.

    Tropical Cyclone:

    A tropical cyclone is a nonfrontal storm system that is characterized by a low pressure centre, spiral rain bands and strong winds. Usually it originates over tropical or sub-tropical waters and rotates clockwise in the southern hemisphere and counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere. The system is fuelled by heat released when moist air rises and the water vapor it contains condenses (“warm core” storm system). Therefore, the water temperature must be >27°C. Depending on their location and strength, tropical cyclones are referred to as hurricane (western Atlantic/eastern Pacific), typhoon (western Pacific), cyclone (southern Pacific/Indian Ocean), tropical storm, and tropical depression (defined by wind speed; see Saffir-Simpson Scale). Cyclones in tropical areas are called hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical depressions (names depending on location).

    Volcanic Eruption:

    All volcanic activity such as rock fall, ash fall, lava streams, gases etc. Volcanic activity describes both the transport of magma and/or gases to the Earth's surface, which can be accompanied by tremors and eruptions, and the interaction of magma and water (e.g., groundwater-and crater lakes) underneath the Earth's surface, which can result in phreatic eruptions. Depending on the composition of the magma, eruptions can be explosive and effusive and result in variations of rock fall, ash fall, lava streams, pyroclastic flows, emission of gases, etc.


    Characteristics and circumstances of a community, system, or asset that make it susceptible to the damaging effects of a hazard.

    Vulnerable Groups:

    Groups or members of groups who are particularly exposed to the impacts of hazards. Examples are displaced persons, women, the elderly, the disabled, orphans, and any group subject to discrimination.


    An area of land from which all of the water under it or on it drains to the same place, which may be a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea, or ocean.


    Wildfire describes an uncontrolled burning fire, usually in wild lands, which can cause damage to forestry, agriculture, infrastructure, and buildings.


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    About the Authors

    Indrajit Pal is Assistant Professor in Disaster Preparedness, Mitigation and Management at the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand. Formerly, he was a Faculty Member at the Centre for Disaster Management in Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie. Dr Pal holds a PhD in seismotectonic and earthquake hazard assessment, and has several years of experience on teaching, research and consulting, focusing on disaster risk governance, risk management, hazard assessment, climate change adaptation, etc. He has published several books and has written articles for peer reviewed international journals. Dr Pal has been recognized as an IRDR Young Scientist by the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk, Beijing.

    Tuhin Ghosh is a Faculty Member in the School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, India. His research interests are coastal geomorphology, disaster management, climate change impacts, adaptation strategies, and human migration. He has several publications and books to his credit. He has collaborated in a project on the sustainability of deltaic systems funded by the Belmont Forum. Dr Ghosh is the Indian lead in an international project called DECCMA, a research on the impacts of climate change on deltas in Africa and Asia, and is working on the Ganges delta and Mahanadi delta in India.

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