Super storm Haiyan (known as Yolanda in the Philippines) has wreaked widespread havoc and devastation since it made landfall in early November 2013. Feared to be the worst storm in world history, Haiyan has killed a confirmed 942 people, but the death toll is expected to reach over 10,000. An estimated 4.5 million Philippine residents are affected by the storm, and damage to the country’s rice and coconut exports is valued at $69 million so far. This most recent natural disaster is but one example of the storms and natural disasters that have occurred recently around the world.
Throughout the history of the world, devastating natural disasters, including windstorms, floods, fires, earthquakes, and hurricanes, have caused considerable losses. The largest storms of the past decade have caused more than a trillion dollars in damages and a reported loss of life of nearly 300,000 people. These storms were Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf region of the United States in 2005, the Indian Ocean Tsunami/Earthquake of December 2004, and the Tohoku Earthquake off the Oshika Peninsula in Japan in March 2011.
Hurricane Katrina (U.S. Gulf Coast Region, August 23-30, 2005)
Hurricane Katrina began its trek through the Gulf of Mexico in late August 2005 on a path toward the Gulf region states of Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana. After making landfall in Louisiana on August 29, 2005, the storm created a path of devastation that nearly destroyed the city of New Orleans. In the aftermath of the storm, nearly 1,850 people lost their lives. The resulting storm surge completely damaged oceanside levees built by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and led to widespread flooding throughout the metropolitan New Orleans area.
Indian Ocean Tsunami/Earthquake (December 2004)
Perhaps the worst recorded storm in history, the tsunami and earthquake that hit the Indian Ocean the day after Christmas in 2004 killed an estimated 280,000 people. Multiple countries were impacted by the effects of this storm, including Indonesia (with over 130,000 confirmed deaths), Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and Somalia. The combination storm had effects as far south as South Africa, where two deaths occurred because of the storm. The 9.3 seismic magnitude of the earthquake was the third highest recorded and was so powerful that it shook the entire earth. A total of $14 billion in humanitarian aid was raised by public and private governments and relief aid organizations to assist the victims.
Tohoku Earthquake (Oshika Peninsula, Japan, March 11, 2011)
The Oshika Peninsula in Japan experienced a magnitude-9 earthquake on March 11, 2011, with an epicenter that was over 40 miles wide. Casualties resulting from the natural disaster reached 25,000, with nearly 16,000 people losing their lives as a result. The earthquake also caused a level-7 nuclear reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Damage estimates from the earthquake totaled approximately $35 billion. The World Bank estimated the total economic cost of the earthquake to be $235 billion, which makes it one of the most costly natural disasters on record.
Natural disasters that result in mass devastation and loss of property and life are a fact of life. Scientists, economists, and politicians will debate the root causes of these occurrences and continue to look for ways to minimize the impact of these storms and their effects on people and property.
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