To what extent is the human response to hazards affected by variations in the economic resources available

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are affected by natural hazards. Hazards can affect anyone at any time and there is usually little that can be done about them. But these hazards affect people who live in different economically structured communities and can affect people on different scales. The majority of people who are affected by hazards are those in poorer communities and in LEDCs. A community is defined “as the people who live in a particular place or region and usually are linked by some common interests”.

Within a country or area there are many communities which share a belief, live in the same area, or suffer from the effect of a disease or poverty, the different number of communities is endless. Some communities are more economically funded so that if a hazard was to occur they would either be prepared or be able to deal with the consequences. Economic resources can include a range of different things such as hazard prediction quality, emergency services, readiness for disasters, and money to rebuild after a disaster.

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The human response is the process that humans carry out to deal with a disaster and the awareness that a community has of the probability of a disaster occurring. Every hazard has a different scale dependent on the type and location of disaster. These disasters could include tectonic (volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis), Meteorological (Flood, hurricane, tornado, smog), and Geomorphic hazards (Landslides, rock fall, and erosion).

Location of a hazard can significant affect the scale of the disaster such as a major city will have a high chance of death and injury than a rural community that is less densely populated. Often areas which are densely populated makes it difficult to respond to an emergency as connections can become easily blocked and people may be hard to find amongst debris. But response to people in rural areas can also be just as hard as it often hard to reach people who live in the middle of nowhere such as farmers in LEDCs and are often uneducated and may not have seen anyone for weeks so would be unaware of a hazard.

To help answer the question I will be using Tropical Storm Jeanne as an example which shows the effect on different communities as I will track it as it moved through Haiti and move eventually to mainland USA through Florida. The storm which occurred became stronger as it passed from the Atlantic Ocean to main land America as it progressed from a moderate tropical storm into a category 4 hurricane over the state of Florida. Also I will use the Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines as an example of how human resources could be used in a rural community.

Tropical Storm/Hurricane Jeanne The storm first formed off the coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic where it was graded as a tropical storm. Both of these countries have areas which are underdeveloped and have little emergency resources to protect from flooding due to their poor economy. It wasn’t the initial force of the storm which caused the damage but the flooding which followed is the cause of the huge death toll which and up to 2000 people where thought to have been killed in the country of Haiti, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.

The flooding in the main city of Gonaives should have been the most protected area with the highest economy but it shows that little response was given to the warnings that where given of the storms as the USA has one of the best storm detection systems in the world as the region is hit most years by storm conditions, but still 80% of the cities population of approximately 200,000. The countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic also had a storm in may in which nearly 3000 people died and this should have raised peoples awareness to the problem but no response system was put in place and few people where educated about the problem.

The main cause for the flash floods which occurred in the country where caused by the quick run off of precipitation on steep inclines where mass deforestation has occurred. The map (right) shows the way in which the storm progressed and the different stages it reached. When the storm which passed over Haiti it was at one of its weakest points and the fact that the people ignored the warnings and previous experiences shows that the countries economy is poor and they where unable to fund ways of reducing the impact of the hazard and protecting its population.

This shows that Haiti as an LEDC was unequipped to cope with the storm. As the storm moved over to the US coast it entered a well developed country which was prepared for the storm. This is where the storm showed its full force throwing winds of 120mph on the Atlantic coast near Stuart before striking the gulf coast. Houses where boarded up, the states sophisticated detection system gave the community and emergency services details of the scale, time and strength of the hurricane which reached a category 4 which is the strongest to hit the region for many years and the people where ready.

Those most at risk evacuated to safe locations, emergency services prepared themselves to save anyone at risk, people in less risk areas boarded their windows up and prepared themselves. As the storm hit is caused damage to buildings as shown in the pictures below and caused flooding such as on the golf course on the right which was in the Jupiter region on the north east coast of Florida near the NASA space centre. But even thought there was a huge force storm that hit the state there was a death toll of only 108 and it was the biggest storm for many years.

This shows that more economically countries can cope better as they fund protection from the storms which is reflected in the death toll although there was a lot of damage but the main aim of a countries government is to save lives. Mount Pinatubo Mount Pinatubo had been dormant for 500 years. The first sign that this situation might be changing occurred on July 16, 1990 when a magnitude 7. 8 earthquake (roughly the size of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake) struck about 60 miles (100 kms. ) northeast of Mount Pinatubo on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

This eruption was classed as explosive and was the globes second biggest of the centuary. This caused the shaking and squeezing of the Earth’s crust beneath the volcano. At Mount Pinatubo, scientists recorded a landslide, some local earthquakes, and a short-lived increase in steam emissions from a pre-existing geothermal area, but otherwise the volcano seemed to be undisturbed. In March and April 1991, however, magma started rising towards the surface from more than 20 miles (32 kms. ) beneath Pinatubo.

This triggered more small earthquakes and caused powerful steam explosions that blasted three craters on the north side of the volcano. Thousands of small earthquakes occurred beneath Pinatubo throughout April, May, and early June 1991, and many thousand tons of noxious sulphur dioxide gas were also emitted by the volcano. On June 7th 1991, the first magma reached the surface of Mount Pinatubo but because it had lost most of the gas contained in it on the way to the surface, the magma merely oozed out to form a lava dome.

However, on June 12th, large amounts of gas-charged magma reached the surface and exploded in the volcano’s first spectacular eruption. When even more highly gas charged magma reached Pinatubo’s surface on June 15th, the volcano exploded in a massive eruption that ejected more than 5 cu. kms. of volcanic material. The ash cloud from this huge eruption rose 22 miles (35 kms. ) into the air. A blanket of volcanic ash and larger pumice pebbles blanketed the countryside. Fine ash fell as far away as the Indian Ocean, and satellites tracked the ash cloud several times around the globe.

Huge avalanches of red hot ash, gas, and pumice fragments called pyroclastic flows roared down the sides of Mount Pinatubo, filling the deep valleys with fresh volcanic deposits as much as 660 ft. (200 m. ) thick. The eruption removed so much magma and rock from below the volcano that the summit collapsed to form a large volcanic depression or caldera 1. 6 miles (2. 5 kms. ) across. Scientists had been able to forecast Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption and this resulted in the saving of many lives and much property.

Commercial aircraft were warned about the hazard of the ash cloud from the June 15 eruption, and most avoided it. Although much equipment was successfully protected, buildings on two U. S. military bases in the Philippines – Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Station – were heavily damaged by ash. Nearly 20 million tons of sulphur dioxide were injected into the stratosphere and the spread of this gas cloud around the world caused global temperatures to drop temporarily (1991-1993) by about 0. 5i??C.

About 20,000 Aeta highlanders, who had lived on the slopes of the volcano, were completely displaced, and most still wait in resettlement camps for the day when they can return home. About 200,000 other people who evacuated from the lowlands surrounding Pinatubo before and during the eruptions have returned home but face continuing threats from lahars (mudflows) that have already buried numerous towns, villages and fields. As a result of the quick reactions, only 300 people became victims to the hazard. The picture below shows the extent to which the ash was emitted from the volcano: Conclusion

From the case studies used it is clear to see that there was a huge difference between the human responses to big hazards in densely populated communities which has show the low death toll in Florida when hit with one of the strongest storms for decades compared to the country of Haiti which had had past experience of storms earlier in the year and had such a high death toll in both events shows that they had little money to protect the population and structures from the storms. And deforestation in the country shows they are more concerned in boosting the economy by selling tree wood than protecting the area which the trees would have done.

At Mount Pinatubo it shows the effect of a rural community that is sparsely in a developing community. Only 300 hundred people died out of 200,000 in the mountain villages compared with the 2000 in the Haiti’s capital which shows that even an LEDC can cope with hazards simply by just evacuating and taking other scientists information to help them as the human response is good for the economic resources they have. Showing that LEDCs can cope if they make themselves aware of the risk of the hazard.

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