Short-Term Effects of Natural Disasters

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Earthquakes rattle even the strongest of structures.
Earthquakes rattle even the strongest of structures. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

After fires, floods are one of the most common natural disasters to affect people. There are many natural disasters including wildfires, volcanoes, mudslides, drought, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. Each of these natural disasters has short-term and long-term effects. Human activities play a role in the frequency and severity of natural disasters that have diverse causes. A natural disaster when it occurs disrupts the balance of the environment, causes property damage and even loss of life.

Physical Destruction

One of the most devastating short-term effects of natural disasters is the damage to physical property left behind. Homes are destroyed, leaving scores of people homeless, vehicles and other personal possessions are damaged and businesses are forced to shut down, some permanently due to physical ruin. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011, is a classic example of the short-term damage caused by natural disasters. Tornadoes sweep across places destroying everything in their path. Earthquakes cause enormous structural damage, causing buildings and infrastructures to totally collapse. Flooding destroys the contents of residential and commercial properties that are affected.

Disruption of Utilities

Communities that surround areas affected by natural disasters are seriously affected by the disruption caused to utility services. Generally, power is the first thing to go when there’s a natural disaster. This can literally mean life or death to the people who are on life support systems such as oxygen and dialysis. Medical assistance becomes hard to get since the crews are busy helping the victims of the disaster. Banks can be shut down, causing a shortage of cash circulation that prevents people from accessing funds for much needed provisions for babies and small children.

Emotional Damage

When a natural disaster strikes, the emotional toll on the people affected is quite devastating. While possessions can be replaced eventually through insurance, the emotional damage can take a long while to heal. People lose loved ones in natural disasters; deaths of people and precious pets, serious injury and people missing all add up to severe emotional trauma. Communities get displaced meaning separation from family and friends. Victims face stress, trauma, anxiety and depression as a result of natural disasters.

Social Consequences

The social consequences of natural disasters in the short and long term are wide ranging. The disasters affect housing; people are left homeless and rebuilding a home takes a long time and a lot of money. Health care infrastructure is affected; the impacts are worse in developing countries that already have poor facilities to begin with. Disease starts spreading and, without proper medical attention, makes a bad situation worse. Education is a big loser when a natural disaster happens, schools are often closed, teachers are unable to come in to work and children are displaced and unable to attend school. Transportation capacity is reduced hindering relief efforts and disrupting normal life.

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