Natural Disaster Facts


Natural disasters are hazards caused by events such as earthquakes, tornadoes and volcanoes that result in a risk to human lives and activities. Natural hazards can have secondary effects as well, such as a drought leading to famine and disease. Emergency management is used to control hazards and outbreaks. Facts about natural disasters are interesting and shocking.


  • Earthquakes are sudden shaking and vibrations in the Earth's crust. The point of origin in earthquakes is called the focus, and the epicenter is the part of the Earth's surface directly above the focus. Earthquakes alone rarely kill; it is the secondary effects of buildings collapsing, fires, tsunamis and volcanoes that generally cause fatalities. According to National Geographic, about 10,000 people on average die every year as a result of earthquakes.


  • Volcanoes are vents in the Earth's surface that issue molten rock, debris and steam. When a volcano explodes, it is called an eruption. Lava consists of superheated rock and is produced during an eruption. There are five major types of volcanoes: caldera, cinder cone, shield volcano, stratovolcano and lava dome. According to National Geographic, almost 90 percent of volcanoes are in the Ring of Fire, the band of volcanoes circling the edges of the Pacific Ocean.


  • A hurricane is a rotating tropical storm with winds of at least 74 miles per hour. They develop over the Atlantic or eastern Pacific oceans. Hurricanes are referred to as cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and in the northern Indian ocean; they are called typhoons in the western Pacific. According to AbsoluteAstronomy, the deadliest Atlantic hurricane ever was the 1970 Bhola cyclone. Katrina is another famous hurricane that devastated the Gulf Coast of the United States in 2005.


  • An epidemic is defined as an outbreak of contagious disease, spreading among humans at a rapid rate. An epidemic is considered a pandemic when its effects are global. According to AbsoluteAstronomy, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide; the SARS pandemic spread in 2002 to 2003; the ongoing AIDS epidemic began in 1959. Other more slow-spreading diseases include tuberculosis, malaria and Ebola hemorrhagic fever.


  • Wildfires and bushfires are fire epidemics that plague wild lands and forests. These fires often are caused by lightning, drought, human negligence and arson. Threat from fires affects humans as well as wildlife. Fires generally are fought by volunteer firefighters and emergency services. Helicopters and aircraft are used to assess fire direction and threat; water-bombing and bulldozing are measures used to control fire outbreaks. According to The New York Times, Australian wildfires in February 2009 killed roughly 200 people. According to the Australian government, the 1983 "Ash Wednesday" fires claimed 76 lives in South Australia and Victoria; another fire in 1969 in southern Victoria killed 23.


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