Facts About Disasters

A disaster is defined as a hazardous event that results in significant damage which may include destruction or death. While destruction of an uninhabited area is still destruction, if an event only affects uninhabited areas, it may not be classified as a disaster.

About Disasters

  • Disaster is a common topic of research, probably because it causes many negative impacts when disasters occur. This has been a topic of research for centuries.
  • Usually disasters are divided into natural disasters and man-made disasters. Natural disasters include storms, floods, and earthquakes, while man-made disasters come mostly from nuclear sources and accidents.   “Environmental and natural disasters have claimed the lives of thousands of people in the United States”, states Samuel Dordulian, a catastrophic injury lawyer  at Dordulian Law Group “wiped out entire cities and towns, and destroyed precious historical and genealogical documents.”
  • Disasters can cause additional disasters. An earthquake, for instance, can cause a tsunami or a landslide, and hurricanes can cause floods.
  • Natural disasters affect over 25 million people around the world every year.
  • Cold and heat waves vary based on location. Cold waves can bring in ice and freeze areas and people. Heat waves can cause people to overheat and can also cause fires and pollution.
  • Many disasters affect the food and water available in the area. Crops can be ruined, and water can be contaminated by the effects of the disaster. This is one of the main reasons people do not survive long-term after severe disasters.
  • Diseases can also be considered disasters in some cases, especially when they are very contagious and potentially lethal. Examples of this include the bubonic plague and AIDS, as well as the influenza experienced in 1918.

About Earthquakes

  • Earthquakes do not kill. The destruction caused by the earthquake, which includes collapsed buildings and flooding, is what results in the deaths of up to 10,000 people yearly.
  • The largest known earthquake, at 9.5 magnitude, was centered on Chile in 1960. Its resulting tsunami damaged areas of the coast of California and killed many people.
  • There are more earthquakes happening yearly than are realized; southern California alone has more than 10,000 every year but the vast majority of them are too small for residents to feel (though the sensitive seismic equipment picks them up).
  • Earthquakes in 1812 caused the Mississippi River to flow backward temporarily. Some people in the area attributed it to the Tie Snake, a river god, twisting underground.

About Floods and Tsunamis

  • Floods are one of the two most common disasters. The other is wildfires.
  • Floods result in over 45% of disaster-related deaths.
  • Hawaii’s rate of tsunami’s is more than one yearly.
  • China’s Yellow River, the Huang He River, is the source of some of the worst floods worldwide. The one that happened in 1931 tops the list, with up to four million deaths.
  • Tsunamis are actually series of waves, not just a single wave.
  • Tsunamis can travel underwater, with little friction, at up to 500mph. This means they can go from one side of the Pacific Ocean to the other in less than 24 hours and lost almost none of their originating energy.
  • In 2004, the world experienced the deadliest tsunami known. It affected 11 countries with waves up to 100 feet tall.

About Hurricanes

  • Hurricanes are tropical storms that span many miles and spiral with high winds (from 74 to over 150 miles an hour) and trillions of gallons of rain every day.
  • Hurricane is the term used for these storms in the Atlantic Ocean. The same storm in the tropics is referred to as a tropical cyclone. In the Pacific Ocean, it would be called a typhoon. In the Indian Ocean, the term is cyclone.
  • Hurricanes spin clockwise in the Southern hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Northern hemisphere. Because of this, hurricanes do not travel across the equator.
  • Hurricanes appear most often between June and November. They mostly affect the coastal areas, but inland areas can also experience high winds, thunderstorms, and floods.

About Landslides and Avalanches

  • An avalanche can reach speeds of 200 miles per hour or more. It takes only about five seconds to get to 80mph.
  • An avalanche on Huascaran Peak in 1962 killed over 4000 people in Peru’s Andes Mountains.
  • Whether or not a person survives being buried in an avalanche is directly related to how quickly rescue is accomplished. Those rescued alive in 15 minutes or fewer usually survive, while the rate of survival is only 20%-30% after 45 minutes and even worse the more time passes.

About Tornadoes

  • Tornadoes can be a mile wide or more and can continue to cause damage for more than 50 miles.
  • The magnitude of tornadoes is measured on a scale called Fujita (or Fujita-Pearson), which ranges from F0 to F5. The lowest is also called “gale-force” with winds around 40-73 miles per hour and the topmost has winds up to 319 miles per hour.

About Volcanoes

  • Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted in 1815, causing the deaths of 92,000 people – many of those because of starvation.
  • An area known as the “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean is made up of 75%-90% of the world’s volcanoes.
  • Lava from volcanoes can measure over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Hawaii’s Kilauea has been active continuously since 1983. It has destroyed over 200 structures in that time frame and erupted over 61 recorded times.
  • There is a supervolcano under Yellowstone. If it were to erupt, it could cause devastation worldwide.

About Wildfires

  • San Francisco’s fire in 1906, which followed an earthquake, lasted three days and is considered to be the worst city fire the US has ever had.

About Nuclear Disasters

  • Nuclear bombs can cause radiation sickness for days or weeks after an explosion. Residual radiation can be airborne for decades and you may need to consider a radiation barrier as well.
  • A nuclear meltdown on Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979 caused low-level radiation exposure to around two million people. Because it was less than an average x-ray, the potential damage to those people was minimal. However, cleanup of the event took about 14 years.
  • Chernobyl’s explosions in 1986 killed 30 people who worked at the plant and 300,000 people were forced to relocate. The amount of radiation was much greater than the bombs experienced by Japan in World War II – by 100 times.
  • Most of the radiation on a person who is within range of an explosion is on their outer clothing. Removing this eliminates about 90% of the radioactive material from the person.