Disaster is the demolition and destruction of any commodity or entity of value. Natural disasters are the ones that are caused by nature. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), disaster is termed as a
“Serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society causing widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses that exceed the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources”
Natural disasters include volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, draughts, floods, and other destructive processes.
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Types of Natural Disasters
Natural disasters can be classified into the following groups:
- Geological disasters – these are the natural disasters which occur as a result of the geological changes in our immediate environment, often because of the shifting of tectonic plates beneath the earth surface, and have a tremendously negative impact on life and property. Earthquakes are the best examples of geological disaster. Example – The most horrifying earthquake in the world, both in terms of magnitude and casualties was the May 22nd 1960 Chile earthquake which late transmutated into a tsunami.
- Meteorological disasters – these types of disasters are caused due to disruption of the usual weather and climate in the region that leads to a sudden spell of extreme weather. Tornadoes, blizzards, hailstorm and cyclones are the best examples of meteorological disasters. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 was the deadliest natural disaster which fell under the category of meteorological disasters. Approximately 80,000 people lost their lives on that unfortunate day of September 8th, 1900.
- Hydrological disasters – these are vicious, sudden and hurtful changes either in quality of water or in the dispersion or development of water aground underneaththe surface or in air. Floods and tsunamis are perhaps the most well known of the hydrological disasters. The Great Flood of 1844 is probably the lasgest flood that humanity ever witnessed. It occurred on the Mussouri and upperMussorie River. The worst Tsunami ever is considered the one that occurred along the coast of Sumatra, in Indonesia.
Wildfires are large scale fire that usually catches on from a small area initially and then spreads to other forests too and renders them impotent. More than three million acres of Idaho were burnt in the Great Fire of 1910 which also known as the ‘Big Burn’ and is considered the largest wildfire ever.
- Space disasters are the ones that occur in space and pertains to the outer Earth. This might include nuclear bursts, Gamma Rayburts, Asteroid impacts, etc.
Causes of natural disasters
Few of the natural disasters and their causes are:
- Earthquakes are caused due to sudden movement of earth’s surface as a result of tectonic plate movement beneath the soil.
- Tsunamis are caused by a multitude of enormous waves produced due to sudden movement under water. It can roughly be seen as an earthquake beneath the sea.
- Floods are usually caused due to excessive precipitation in areas where thewater bodiesdo not have sufficient capacity to accommodate the excess water.
Avalanches are caused due to sudden landslides in snow accumulated regions. It is often triggered by tectonic movements or general vibration of the snow covered region.
Tornadoes are high speed wind columns that rotate either clockwise or anticlockwise. These are generally caused in regions where there is low pressure and the neighboring cool air rushes to take its place.
Apart from these natural causes of disasters, there are however human activities and interventions in the course of nature that can trigger these disasters.
In the wake of industrialization and urbanization, human activates of exploiting the nature has crossed such levels that mother nature has to reciprocate of a ferocious answer.
Excessive emissions due to vehicles and factories have led to a change in the composition of air and also increases the global temperature. This causes changes in rainfall pattern and has resulted in floods in many low lying regions.
Indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers leads to the degradation of soil and thus results of infertile topsoil which cannot sustain vegetation. This may result in drying of large number of plants which sometimes has been a major factor in the initiation of wildfires.
The pressure of population has caused enormous amounts of groundwater to be extracted and this has lowered the ground water table significantly. This many times has been one of the contributors of major Droughts and subsequent famines.
Citable cases of natural disasters
Cyclone Nargis of 2008, was the first ever to hit northern region of Indian ocean. It was estimated that a total of 84,500 people were killed with 53,800 missing.
Hurricane Katrina of 2005 was the deadliest that the US Gulf Coast had ever seen. It caused property damages worth over 81 billion us dollars, making it one of the costliest natural disasters.
Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011 had a magnitude of 9.1 followed by a tsunami which had hit the east coast of Japan killing over 15,894 people and completely demolishing 127,000 buildings. The estimated injuries were 6,152 people and another 2,562 were not found.
The historical Aleppo Earthquake of 1138 was the most horrifying earthquake ever killing more than 3,00,000 people and crumbling and entire city along with it surrounding cities.
Today, due to advancement in science and technology, man has the audacity to manipulate nature to his whims and fancies. But the fact remains that we are just a puny part of this entire nature and have no power against the forces of nature’s might.