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The Hazards Presented by Volcanic and Seismic Events Essay

Hazards are anything that could cause damage to humans or buildings. Many volcanic and seismic events happen that cause hazards to humans. Often the world’s poorest people are hit the worst, however wealthier countries can also be adversely affected. The Kobe earthquake in Japan 1995 struck at 5.45am. Many people were asleep in bed, causing the hazard to be increased because the people were unaware. Although many Japanese buildings were of aseismic design, the roofs of their houses were designed to withstand typhoons and so were very heavy. When the earthquake struck many people were crushed in their sleep. Also every year on 1st September Japan has national earthquake preparedness day to remember the 140000 that died in the Tokyo earthquake of 1923 but this did not help many of the citizens of Kobe. The Kobe earthquake was also in December so many people had nowhere to go in the middle of the night in winter and the risk of hyperthermia was extremely high.

People were not put into temporary accommodation for up to two weeks after the event because the Japanese government originally refused assistance from foreign countries to help with the aid effort. The secondary effects of the earthquake like the gas leaks and fires killed 3000 people and many businesses were lost in the port. The Kobe earthquake shows that sometimes the wealthier countries can be just as badly affected. The Icelandic volcano, Ejajjallajokall, affected many people around the world, both wealthy and poor. The airspace above much of Europe was closed meaning that a lot of trade with European countries had to be cancelled. In Kenya and Zimbabwe there were mounds of rotting fruit and flowers because they had nowhere to export them to and they lost a lot of much needed business. New Zealand’s exportation of salmon though improved because it was no longer in competition with Norway.

Demonstrating how extensive globalisation has become and how the volcanic eruption affected the poorer countries as well as the wealthier ones and their travel companies in business as well as through the hazard. The 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China killed 70000 people. It is a highly tectonic area with an ancient faultline. Yet, it is also a very poor area and few buildings were of aseismic design. The earthquake struck at 2pm which meant that most people were at work but it was also the time when many children in school were having their afternoon sleep and they were crushed by falling schools. Approximately 6000 schoolchildren died. This loss is exacerbated by the Chinese one child policy and will impact upon the community for a long time. Although the region being very poor was extremely devastated when the earthquake struck, the steep topography of the area exacerbated the problems because it caused mass movement which killed 158 rescue workers and blocked many of the roads that aid workers were trying to use to get to the people. The Chinese government are now relocating many of the people from the area because it is unsafe – some say it is too late. The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami affected many people with over 350000 killed.

Indonesia, Sumatra and the Nicobar Islands were badly affected. The poorest people were the worst affected by the disaster because there was no warning and many did not know that there was that type of hazard. However there has been a tsunami warning system in the Pacific Ocean since the 1940s – this is because the wealthier countries like Japan, Canada and USA all are affected by the Pacific. The Indian Ocean was surrounded by very poor countries that could not afford this kind of system. The wealthy tourists visiting places like Thailand and Indonesia on holiday were relatively safe in the well built western hotels and they were transported back to their home country very quickly after the disaster, whereas the locals did not often have very sturdy shelters and nowhere to go after the disaster happened. The volcanic eruption of Nevada del Ruiz in Bolivia is another example of how some of the poorest people can be so badly affected by these events.

The US volcanologist office warned the local authorities about the impending eruption but the authorities did not understand the seriousness of the situation and so did not warn any of the people. 28000 people died from the eruption and the secondary effects of the mudslides and lahars that formed. This lack of education of the risks of the seismic and volcanic hazards in the poorer countries often makes them much more vulnerable. Hawaii experiences volcanic activity all the time from its hot spot volcanoes. Although it is part of the USA, it is still relatively poor but it benefits enormously from the volcano tourism it attracts to the islands. Thousands of people arrive every year to see the volcanic activity from a distance. Although there is still a hazardous risk from the volcano, the people benefit more from it than not.

The eruptions also provide extremely fertile soils for agriculture and native species. Therefore the hazards presented by volcanic and seismic events do have a huge impact on the world’s poorest people, yet some of the wealthiest can suffer just as badly. Often the world’s poorest people live in very high population density housing areas on marginal land meaning that they are at an increased risk of the hazard than the wealthier on more stable land. The very poorest in Indonesia during the tsunami were on the very edge of the coast closest to the impact zone, whereas the wealthier people were generally further inland and more safe.

The secondary effects of the seismic or volcanic activity can be just as devastating as the original event, for example, many homes that were not destroyed after the Mount St Helens eruption of 1980 in Washington state were washed away by the flooding from the rivers and Spirit Lake becoming blocked from debris. Therefore, the world’s poorest people do tend to suffer the most but mainly from a lack of education and prior knowledge of the dangers.

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