Posted May. 20, 2008 03:55,
○ Drastic increase in earthquakes, floods and draughts
A research suggested that the number of natural disasters stemming from geological reasons such as earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis increased from an annual average of one incident in the 1950s to two in the 2000s. The number of natural calamities arising from weather-related reasons including floods, storms and draughts jumped from an annual average of two to seven over the same period.
A recent report released by international aid agency Oxfam suggested a similar trend. The agency said that natural disasters have quadrupled in the past two decades. The number of occurrences in the early 1980s stood at 120 a year, while it skyrocketed to about 500 these days.
However, scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed some mixed responses to the statistics. Some researchers say the occurrences of tropical storms increased, while others argued that their intensities are getting fierce, but the number is not rising. They even failed to conclude whether there is a close connection between global warming and intensified tropical storms.
A settled conviction in the scientific field is that geological disasters like earthquakes have nothing to do with human activities. Some critics say that media coverage is attributable to the hype over global warming and the argument that natural disasters growingly occur more frequently.
○ Asian countries suffer the biggest damage
However, there is no denying that the victims of natural disasters have been on the rise. According to the Oxfam report, the number of casualties including those killed by natural calamities amounted to about 174 million from 1985 to 1994, but it soared to 254 million between 1995 and 2004.
Unfortunately, Asia has been the hardest-hit area. Frances Le Figaro Magazine reported in its latest edition that about 800 cases of natural disasters have occurred in the Asian region since 2001. In particular, the most populous countries, such as Indonesia, China and India, suffered the biggest damage. All three countries are sitting on fault lines. A number of mountains and rivers in Asian countries are prone to landslides and floods. Moreover, the coastal areas are directly exposed to tropical storms.
The United States has suffered 222 cases of natural disasters since 2001, following Asia. The country has been frequently battered by capricious and unpredictable natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes. Although the number of Hurricane Katrina victims is pale in comparison to that of Asian cyclones, it was shocking that Hurricane Katrina claimed the lives of more than 1,300 people given that the number of hurricane victims has rarely exceeded 100.
In contrast, Europe is classified as the safest region in the world. The European continent has witnessed a total 180 natural disasters since 2001. Most of them were wild fires. Meanwhile, as many as 50,000 people were killed by scorching heat waves that swept through France, Italy and Portugal in 2003, and Greece and Rumania in 2007.
○ Floods mostly are man-made disasters
Earthquakes have remained the trickiest part to deal with. No specific countermeasures have been developed. The numbers of people killed by an earthquake occurred in Tangshan, China, in 1976 and of those killed by the 2004 tsunami triggered by an earthquake in Ache, Indonesia, were estimated 255,000 and 250,000, respectively. Some experts say that the tsunami victims are as many as 285,000.
As far as earthquakes are concerned, there are no particular countermeasures except to build buildings in quake-proof structures. Floods and storms also bring about catastrophic disasters, but in the case of Bangladesh, thanks to massive governmental efforts, a drastic reduction in the number of flood victims has been made since 1970 when about 300,000 people were killed by floods. Technological advancement such as improved satellites and radars has played a great role in reducing the damage. Many experts say that diplomatic isolation and incapability of Myanmars leadership is most responsible for the whopping 100,000 victims claimed by the recent cyclone.