The Caribbean's warm weather, sandy beaches and beautiful views help make it a key destination for visitors every year. However, many are unaware that much of the region is prone to natural disasters. These disasters, and their consequences, can cause property destruction and, in many cases, death.
The North Atlantic region, within which the Caribbean is situated, is prone to hurricanes every year. Hurricanes derive their power from the heat created by warm tropical waters and can form when the sea temperature reaches 80°F. They whip winds in excess of 74 miles per hour (mph), which pick up objects that can crash into structures and people. The hurricane season spans from June 1st to November 30th. Hurricanes are also preceded and followed by heavy rainfall. That rain can wash away crops and even buildings that are not properly built. It can also cause rivers to swell, which can in turn cause flooding. In 2010, Hurricane Tomas hit the region and killed 14 in St. Lucia.
The islands of the Caribbean are situated within the vicinity of two tectonic plates: the North American plate and the Caribbean plate. As a result, the region's seismic activity is rated moderate to severe, with a major earthquake occurring approximately every 50 years. An earthquake on June 7th, 1692, completely destroyed the pirate haven known as Port Royal, Jamaica. And on January 12th, 2010, a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, killing 230,000. Apart from collapsing structures, these earthquakes can sometimes cause liquefaction, when soil falls apart. That, plus building collapses and possible tsunamis can create further destruction and loss of lives.
Caribbean islands were created through volcanic eruptions. Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saba, St. Lucia and St. Vincent form a volcanic arc in the region. While many volcanoes are dormant, some remain active. There is one active underwater volcano located just offshore from Grenada. Depending on their severity, volcanic eruptions can cause tsunamis. Such force can wipe out smaller islands. Volcanic eruptions can also cause mud and lava flows, which can also cause death and destruction.
Landslides can stem from a variety of factors, including hurricanes, torrential rains, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In the Caribbean, landslides can occur as rockfalls with material falling off mountain ranges. These rockfalls can block roads located below and drop rocks on homes and people. Landslides can also cause mud flows.
- Organization of American States: "Hurricanes and their Effects on Buildings and Structures in the Caribbean"; Gibbs, Tony; January 2001
- NOAA: National Huricane Center
- Daily Mail: Clean Up Begins On Holiday Island Of Saint Lucia After Huricane Tomas Claims 14 Lives
- Organization of American States: "Natural Hazards in the Caribbean"; Gibbs, Tony; January 2001
- Science Daily: Major Caribbean Earthquakes And Tsunamis A Real Risk
- My Island Jamaica: Port Royal Jamaica
- Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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