Published: 00:00 GMT Daylight Time - Monday 10 May 2010
When Disaster Strikes
“We are overwhelmed with victims,” were the words of local mayor Fauzi Bahar as he appealed for help following two huge earthquakes near Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province, Indonesia. The first, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, struck at 5.15pm on Wednesday 30 September 2009. The second came shortly after, as people battled driving rain in the pitch dark to dig survivors out of the rubble. Huge cracks appeared in roads, and buildings buckled and collapsed; at least 1,100 people were killed.Just four days earlier, on 26 September, Typhoon Ketsana caused catastrophic flooding in the capital of the Philippines, Manila, and surrounding areas, leaving 240 people dead and nearly half a million homeless. When the Marikina River burst its banks, streets became raging rivers within minutes. Homes and businesses were inundated with mud and flood waters; people scrambled to take refuge on rooftops as wind and rain lashed around them. One week later Typhoon Parma hit the Philippines; although it spared the already reeling capital city, it struck the northern part of Luzon Island. This was closely followed by a third storm, which caused flooding and landslides in two provinces of the northern Philippines.
In parts of Africa relentless rain caused disruption in September 2009. Flooding in Sudan demolished homes and a church in a camp for internally displaced people, mainly Christians from South Sudan, who had fled from the civil war that racked the country for 22 years. In Niger the intense rain caused rivers to break their banks and a dam to burst outside the town of Agadez. Destruction was widespread.
In Haiti a massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake on 12 January 2010 left up to 200,000 people dead. Haiti is considered one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. The earthquake is a historic disaster and served only to compound the problems faced by a nation that is suffering the legacy of decades of international neglect. As people struggled to find food and shelter, looting and lawlessness gripped the country.
Natural disasters are not all of such vast proportions; they do not always lead to large scale destruction, nor do they always gain world-wide media coverage. But for those caught up in smaller-scale disasters, the effects can be just as destructive. In 2009 the Chin Christians of Burma (Myanmar) were facing starvation due to a largely unreported famine. Severe drought was followed by a plague of rats. “My family normally eats rice, but the rats have destroyed everything we had. The only thing left is rats and wild potatoes for our family,” said one Christian. The immense hardship left thousands starving; at least 40 children died.