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Vocapedia > Earth > Natural disasters




An Indian man cries

as he holds the hand of his eight-year-old son,

who was killed in a tsunami

in Cuddalore, southern India, December 27, 2004.


The death toll in a tsunami

that slammed into coasts from India to Indonesia

topped 22,000

as rescuers scoured the sea for missing tourists

and fears of disease grew

as soldiers raced to recover rotting bodies.


Photo by Arko Datta/Reuters


Corpses Piled on Asian Coasts After Tsunami Kills 23,2004


Mon Dec 27, 2004        02:18 PM ET
















natural disasters        UK









disasters        USA






natural disasters and extreme weather








natural disasters > insurers






act of God
















landslide / mudslide        USA





















debris        USA






death toll        USA






















This pair of photographs shows the same location

on a street in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, Japan

on two different dates,

March 11, 2011 and February 17, 2012.


The first photograph shows the area today,

and the second shows a tsunami wave crashing

into the street after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake.


Miyako City Office/Handout/Reuters and Toru Hanai/Reuters


Boston Globe > Big Picture

Japan tsunami pictures: before and after        March 7, 2012
















tsunami        UK / USA
























Japan tsunami pictures: before and after        March 7, 2012


In this first of three Big Picture posts on the anniversary

of the Japan earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster,

we have a series of paired "then and now" pictures,

with the first image taken recently paired

with a picture from the same vantage point

taken during or in the immediate aftermath

of the tragedy.












33 feet high





freak wave





giant wave





massive tidal wave










ocean surge





the surge of water





killer wall of water





be triggered

by a 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake

off the Indonesian island of Sumatra





swirling ocean swells





the quake's epicenter





at the epicenter





sweep across N





the shorelines of Asia and East Africa





coastal Thailand and Sri Lanka

























towns ravaged by the waves





death toll        UK






dead are put at 57,000





4,000 people missing





tens of thousands still unaccounted for





the seismological bureau of the country's

meteorology department





the tectonic plates beneath the ocean




















rotting food





the use of outdoor toilets





create breeding grounds for germs















rescue team










the largest relief effort in history        USA
















tectonic plate        UK






the Indian Ocean





The Indian Ocean region





the giant Burma and Indian tectonic plates















a massive 8.7 magnitude earthquake





ocean / sea floor















Year Packed With Weather Disasters

Has Brought Economic Toll to Match


August 19, 2011

The New York Times



The weather this year has not only been lousy, it has been as destructive in terms of economic loss as any on record.

Normally, three or four weather disasters a year in the United States will cause at least $1 billion in damages each. This year, there were nine such disasters. They included the huge snow dump in late January and early February on the Midwest and Northeast, the rash of tornadoes this spring across the Midwest and the more recent flooding of the Missouri and Souris Rivers. The disasters were responsible for at least 589 deaths, including 160 in May when tornadoes ripped through Joplin, Mo.

These nine billion-dollar disasters tie the record set in 2008, according to a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The total damage done by all storms, tornadoes, flooding and heat waves so far this year adds up to about $35 billion. The National Climatic Data Center says it estimates the costs in terms of dollars and lives that would not have been incurred had the event not taken place. Insured and uninsured losses are included in damage estimates and are likely to change as assessments become more complete. With four months to go in 2011, this year’s total amount of damage is likely to rise. Forecasters are already predicting further meteorological mayhem as hurricane season intensifies.

Over the last 30 years, there have been about 108 natural disasters that have caused $1 billion in damages each, according to NOAA. The total damage from all natural disasters since 1980 is about $750 billion.

“The increasing impacts of natural disasters, as seen this year, are a stark reminder of the lives and livelihoods at risk,” Jack Hayes, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service, said in a statement.

Part of the problem is that more people are living in high-risk areas, NOAA said. This makes them “increasingly vulnerable to severe weather events, such as tornado outbreaks, intense heat waves, flooding, active hurricane seasons, and solar storms that threaten electrical and communication systems,” the statement said.

NOAA, along with other private and public agencies, is taking several steps to try to make the nation more “weather ready,” including making more precise forecasts, improving the ability to alert local authorities about risks and developing specialized mobile-ready emergency response teams.

The National Weather Service is also planning several test projects involving emergency response and ecological forecasting. Test projects are to start soon at strategic locations in the mid-Atlantic region, on the Gulf Coast and elsewhere in the South. They include improvements to a system in Charleston, W.Va., for alerts three hours ahead of severe weather instead of the current half-hour.

The nine weather events that have caused at least $1 billion in damages so far this year are:

¶Central/East Groundhog Day blizzard (Jan. 29-Feb. 3). This storm was tied to 36 deaths. The losses exceeded $2 billion.

¶Midwest/Southeast tornadoes (April 4-5). Nine people were killed. Total losses were more than $2 billion.

¶Southeast/Midwest tornadoes (April 8-11). Resulted in more than $2 billion in losses.

¶Midwest/Southeast tornadoes (April 14-16). Caused 38 deaths. Total losses are more than $2 billion.

¶Southeast/Ohio Valley/Midwest tornadoes (April 25-30). Caused 327 deaths. Losses total more than $9 billion.

¶Midwest/Southeast tornadoes (May 22-27). Caused 177 deaths. Total losses are more than $7 billion.

¶Southern Plains/Southwest drought, heat waves, wildfires. Direct losses are more than $5 billion.

¶Mississippi River flooding. At least two deaths and losses ranging from $2 billion to $4 billion.

¶Upper Midwest flooding. Losses estimated at $2 billion.

Year Packed With Weather Disasters Has Brought Economic Toll to Match,






In Wake of Natural Disasters,

Insurers Brace for Big Losses


June 1, 2011

The New York Times



The devastation from the natural disasters that have ripped through parts of the country this year has been starkly evident. Hundreds of people have died and thousands of houses have been shattered in a deadly string of tornadoes. Millions of acres of farms were inundated and businesses shut down by flooding along the Mississippi River.

Now, as homes are repaired, fields are pumped and factories are cleaned out, the damage assessments will mount, and another measure of the impact will come into clearer focus: the cost to insurance companies.

Based on nearly two dozen interviews with farmers, business owners, analysts and government officials, private insurance companies are likely to experience at least $10 billion in insured losses this year, mostly associated with the tornadoes and the flooding along the Mississippi, based on property damage, lost inventory, business interruption and disrupted crop plantings.

Insurance industry and risk analysis experts arrived at their projections by adding median damage estimates for the worst of the tornadoes so far. The tally will rise when private-sector insurance flood and crop claims associated with the Mississippi River flooding are tacked on and hundreds of other tornadoes and severe winter weather events are factored in.

“Natural catastrophe losses in the United States are likely to be well over $10 billion by the end of 2011,” said David Smith, the senior vice president of Eqecat Inc., a catastrophe risk modeling firm. And Robert P. Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, said that just one “relatively minor” hurricane this year could push the total private insurance catastrophe losses in 2011 above the $13.6 billion paid out in 2010.

Whatever the numbers prove to be, analysts acknowledge that the geographic and economic range of damage is vast. Farmland is still submerged, meaning farmers must wait until the water fully recedes to determine whether the soil is fit to replant. Damage assessment teams are still fanning out in tornado zones, surveying the destruction.

And there is also uncertainty about what insurance policies will cover, a question recently on the mind of Austin Golding, a 25-year-old manager in his family’s barge business in Vicksburg, Miss. Like other business owners along the Mississippi, Mr. Golding took pre-emptive measures when the river started to rise, moving equipment and staff members to portable trailers on higher ground and putting the main office on blocks, a costly operation that he said saved the insured building from water damage.

“I think we are probably going to try to recoup what we spent in trying to avoid a total replacement” of the building, Mr. Golding said. He added that they would at least try to negotiate a decrease in the premium.

The Mississippi River areas that were flooded include two million to more than three million acres of farmland and pasture, said Michael Cordonnier, a consultant with the Soybean and Corn Advisor, an information service for the commodity industry. Houses, ports, casinos, hotels, grain elevators, infrastructure, fisheries and other facilities are among the sources expected to generate claims from damages.

In addition to the flooding, some of the worst tornadoes in decades have struck this year. As of Wednesday, there have been at least 518 fatalities from tornadoes in the United States, just behind the 519 in 1953, the highest number since official record-keeping started in 1950, said Gregory Carbin, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist.

Just the tornadoes that affected Alabama and neighboring states in the last week of April, and Joplin, Mo., in May, could produce insured losses of $4.5 billion to $8 billion, said Mr. Hartwig of the insurance institute. Eqecat Inc. estimated insured losses at $2 billion to $5 billion in the April week and $1 billion to $3 billion for Joplin. AIR Worldwide, a risk modeling and consulting firm, said it estimated $3.7 billion to $5.5 billion in insured losses for tornadoes and other severe weather events, including Alabama’s, in just one week: April 22 to 28.

Catastrophes are defined in the industry as any single event with $25 million or more in insured losses. The biggest catastrophe to hit the industry’s insurers was Hurricane Katrina, which generated $45 billion, adjusted for inflation, in insured losses for houses, businesses and vehicles.

While many in the industry, and those clearing out their homes or pumping out businesses, say it is too early to put a figure on the damage, private insurance companies will not be alone in bearing the cost.

The government will cover most of the losses related to flooding for insured homes and small businesses through the National Flood Insurance Program. Officials said the flood insurance program was already $17.7 billion in debt to the Treasury Department, mostly because of Katrina. They added, however, that the program still had $668 million in cash reserves as of April 30 and the ability to borrow nearly $3 billion more from the department if needed to cover this year’s claims.

Farmers Insurance, which is one of at least 90 private insurance companies that pays out the flood claims losses using the flood insurance program’s funds, has received about 300 claims for flood losses as of May 30, said Jeffery W. Hinesly, a manager of the program for the company. He said that each claim averaged $20,000 to $30,000 for property damage. “I do not expect much more than the 300 because many do not own flood insurance,” he said. The major loss exposure that private insurance companies will have using their own funds for flood losses is for automobile insurance, which is not covered by the flood insurance program, he added.

For crop insurance, the government’s Risk Management Agency shares the payments for losses with the 15 private insurance companies that it regulates. William J. Murphy, the administrator of the agency, said he expected crop-related losses from Missouri south through the Mississippi River basin to be in the $700 million to $800 million range. The amount paid by the private companies depends on individual contracts with farmers, but it is expected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“We are waiting to see the extent of the losses down there,” Mr. Murphy said.

Meanwhile, along the river and in tornado-wrenched towns, residents, farmers and business owners are struggling to adapt.

Bobby W. Armstrong, 79, and his wife, Barbara, moved into a Days Inn in Joplin after their three-bedroom home was damaged, but they considered themselves fortunate that it was not destroyed.

“We heard sirens going and so we went into the hallways and sat down next to the linen closet and huddled up there on the floor,” said Mr. Armstrong, a Marine Corps veteran. He said a “wild guess” was that the house needed a new roof, siding, gutters and other repairs, but they had yet to see a claims adjuster.

“We have turned in the report on it, and it will take time before they get out,” he said.

Farmers, too, must wait, and with commodity prices at recent highs, the delays can be costly. The floods wiped out investments in fertilizer, labor and seeds. Crop insurance might cover only 50 to 75 percent of the value, depending on average historical yields. In addition, there are seasonal issues. It is too late to replant corn, but soybeans may still take root if the topsoil is in shape.

John Michael Pillow, a 41-year-old farmer in Yazoo County, Miss., watched in dismay when the river spilled over onto his insured farmland, destroying about 3,000 of the 4,000 acres of corn he had already planted.

“I am really hoping we can plant soybeans,” he added, “so we will be able to get out of this year without a complete loss.”

In Wake of Natural Disasters, Insurers Brace for Big Losses,










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