Discussion Essay of Societal Impacts on Natural Disasters

Topics: 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Tsunami, Plate tectonics Pages: 5 (1833 words) Published: January 14, 2013
Natural disasters are a devastating, but undeniably inevitable part of life and society. Because of this fact, many of us tend to believe that they happen as an act of nature, purely out of the human control. We need to start realizing that this is far from the truth and it this attitude that is stopping us from learning from our mistakes. The contemporary world inaccurately labels various disasters as ‘natural’ when in fact, when looked at more closely; there is an enormous correlation between ‘nature’ and ‘society’. There are many flaws in the human preparation for natural disasters that have equated in death and injury where it could have been minimized. Although the occurrence of a disaster can happen at any time, it is vital that we start recognizing that there is much that we can do reduce the effects that they have on us as well as taking ownership to the fact that there have been many changes that we have made to the environment in the past and present to aggravate ‘natural’ disasters and allow them to impact on us with much more severity then they would of otherwise.

A natural disaster can be defined as a phenomenon that results in material and/or environmental loss where the affected community would not be able to restore themselves without external support (The Australian Government Department of Transport and Regional Services, 2002). The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that affected Japan and the Indian Ocean earthquake affecting Southern Asia are both primary examples of natural disasters. Although these two events were completely unrelated to each-other, the economic and environmental impact that they had on their effected regions were very much similar. These included widespread death and injuries, building and infrastructure losses, major economic downfall and socio-economic loss.

The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck the coast of Japan at 14:46 local time on 11th of March, 2011. It was a magnitude 9.0 on the Richter scale (Shibahara, 2011), making it one of the most powerful earthquakes the world has ever seen. It lasted a total of 8 minutes and the violent earthquake later triggered a tsunami, which travelled up to 10 kilometres inland into the Sendai area (Norio, 2011). The short-term effects of the earthquake and tsunami included: death and injuries, destruction of property and infrastructure including roads and all forms of transport systems, financial and economic downfall due to rebuilding, clean-up projects, and the falling of stocks.

The event occurred where the pacific plates dip underneath the plate beneath northern Honshu. This is known as convergent boundaries; where one tectonic plate moves under the other, sinking into the Earth’s mantle as the plates meet. Where more traditional earthquakes are caused by friction of two plates moving in opposite directions, in this instant The Pacific Plate moved underneath Honshu’s plate, releasing large amounts of energy (N.A, 2005). The break caused the sea floor to rise by several metres. This underwater megathrust earthquake is the most rare and destructive type, hence producing the massive Richter scale reading. The tsunami that followed the earthquake was triggered by the destructive waves up of to 77 feet and engulfed the coast of Japan minutes after the quake. Some of the more powerful waves travelled up to 6 miles inland, causing damage that almost match that of the earthquake, even though limited to the coastal region. In addition to these events, the disasters also caused major disruption to the nearby nuclear power plants that put Japan in a the midst of a humanitarian crisis unseen in the history of modern Japan (Duan, 2012).

Japan often experience’s natural disasters due to their geological placement and hence have developed earthquake and disaster procedures that are one of the most advanced in the world (Sheth & Sanyai & Jaiswai & Gandhi, 2008). However, the series of disasters were simply too high in magnitude for Japan...
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