Archive for the 'Natural Disasters' Category

Worst Geologic Disasters of 2012

January 29th, 2013 -- Posted in Earthquakes, Natural Disasters, Volcanoes | No Comments »

guest post by Rebecca Shields

On April 11, two consecutive earthquakes with magnitudes of 8.2 and 8.6 occurred off the west coast of northern Sumatra, where the Sunda plate meets the Indi/Australian plate. Many earthquakes happen at these ‘plate boundaries’ due to movement of the plates themselves. This specific plate boundary is in the same location of the record 9.1 earthquake from December 26, 2004 that caused multiple tsunamis, killing over 230,000 people. Tsunamis occur when an earthquake creates a shift in a huge amount of landmass under the ocean. When this large amount of land moves under the water, an upswelling occurs, creating the tsunami wave. A tsunami did result from the April earthquakes, but people living in the surrounding areas were prepared and no one was hurt. Unlike recent years, no tsunami was able to cause enough destruction to be considered a disaster!

Like earthquakes, most volcanoes are located near plate boundaries. The volcano that affected the most people in 2012 is Volcan de Fuego. It is located in Guatemala on the ‘Ring of Fire’. The Ring of Fire surrounds the Pacific Ocean and is made up of volcanoes. A few different plate boundaries come into play along the ring, but the result is the same: hundreds of volcanoes. When Volcan de Fuego erupted on September 13, 2012, the Guatemalan government called for the evacuation of almost 35,000 residents in 17 surrounding areas. Other significant eruptions of 2012 were the Plosky Tolbachik in Russia, Puyehue in Chile, and Etna in Italy.

Worst Geologic Disasters of 2012

Japan is a series of islands formed by volcanoes located on the Ring of Fire. Along with a healthy dose of volcanic activity, Japan experienced massive floods and landslides in 2012. In early July 2012, southern Japan experienced torrential rainfall exceeding 3.5in per hour, resulting in flash floods and at least 518 landslides across the country. Twenty-eight people were confirmed dead and over 250,000 people were ordered to evacuate. Landslides can be especially deadly due to the speed at which they can travel, sometimes up to 35 mph. They are made up of anything that gets in the way, creating an almost solid wall of debris. Landslides are oftentimes associated with floods because they are caused by the buildup of large amounts of water on a mountain slope or hillside.

All the geologic hazards discussed happen daily around the world. However, under the right conditions, they turn deadly very fast. It is always important to know what hazards are common in your area, and be prepared for all possibilities.

Italy Earthquake brings Historic Buildings Crashing Down

May 20th, 2012 -- Posted in Earthquakes, Natural Disasters | No Comments »

A magnitude-6.0 quake struck in the middle of the night, about 35km (22 miles) north of the Italian city of Bologna. The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the quake at a relatively shallow depth of 10km  (6.2 miles) just after 04:00 am local time (02:00 GMT). Later on Sunday, a magnitude 5.1 aftershock hit the region, causing more buildings to collapse.  The earthquake has killed at least seven and injured more than 50 people.

The epicenter of the quake, north of Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region, was felt across northern Italy, including the cities of Bologna, Modena, Ferrara, Rovigo, Verona and Mantua and as far away as Milan and Venice.  The earthquake and aftershocks reduced historic churches and castle towers to rubble and forced many terrified residents into the streets.

The BBC reported the following eyewitness accounts: “I was woken at around 04:00 by the quake, it was strong and lasted up to a minute, maybe more,” Frankie Thompson, a UK travel journalist in Bologna, told the BBC.   “Church bells were set off spontaneously… followed by an eerie silence. Small aftershocks kept coming and going until maybe 05:50 when a stronger tremor shook us again but not as long and dramatic as the first,” she added.

Britain’s David Trew, who is staying in a hotel in Ferrara, told the BBC: “I was sound asleep when the tremors started. I was having quite a vivid dream, and the first few seconds of the quake became part of the dream.  “As I began to wake up it took me a few seconds to realize that it was actually happening for real. I fumbled around in the darkness, now very scared. The room was shaking violently, plaster was dropping off the ceiling into my hair and all over the floor.”

The search for survivors continues as aftershocks rattle residents. The last major earthquake to hit Italy was a 6.3 magnitude quake in the central Italian city of L’Aquila in 2009, killing nearly 300 people.

Japan Tsunami Disaster Anniversary

March 11th, 2012 -- Posted in Earthquakes, Natural Disasters, Tsunami | No Comments »

A year ago today, a massive 9.0 earthquake battered Japan, followed by a lethal tsunami, ravaging fires, and nuclear power plant meltdown. Entire villages were wiped out, thousands of people were reported missing, thousands more were injured and left homeless, and more than 15,000 people were killed. In one of the most devastating natural disasters in the history of Japan, the world watched in horror. Images from the devastated country made us all heartsick, and perhaps made us feel vulnerable to the power of nature—or at least aware of it.

The aftermath left a wasteland of once pristine and vibrant coastal communities. Though some restoration has occurred, there is obviously so much more to do. But for today, thousands of Japanese will pause from their daily activities to pay respects to the victims lost in the disaster.

Remains of a Home After the Tsunami

And how are the survivors doing a year later? According to The Telegraph, “In the worst-affected areas, the clear-up, let alone the recovery is far from complete. Ships stay stranded inland, cars sit where they came to rest on top of buildings.”

An article in the San Jose Mercury News reported, “Of course the scenes on TV were horrific,” said Dianne Fukami, president of the board of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, a former TV journalist who is producing a documentary about relief efforts by the Japanese-American community. “But when you stand in the middle of what used to be a neighborhood and turn 360 degrees and can’t see anything that resembles a house, it’s a different experience.”

It appears that Japan has a long road ahead to revitalization—to rebuilding structures and lives—and we are sending the survivors our respects today.

Honeymooners Survive Six Natural Disasters

April 25th, 2011 -- Posted in Earthquakes, Natural Disasters, Tsunami | 1 Comment »

by Victoria M. Johnson

Stefan And Erika Svanstrom of Sweden planned a perfect four-month long honeymoon… but Mother Nature intervened.  The couple wed on November 27, 2010 and a week later, with their infant daughter in tow, they set off for a 16-country adventure. “Our plan was to get a lot of sun and beach-life early in the trip, and experience nature and culture later in the trip. Some of the destinations were chosen for the diving, as we are both keen to go scuba diving,” Stefan said, “leaving plenty of time to explore.”

The Svanstroms left Stockholm in December and became stranded for a night in Munich, Germany due to a severe snowstorm, one of Europe’s worst blizzards. The newlyweds enjoyed China and Thailand, but in Bali, Indonesia, a relentless monsoon kept them indoors for days. Another natural disaster awaited in Cairns, Australia where a catastrophic cyclone forced them to join a group shelter with thousands of people. “Trees were being knocked over and big branches were scattered across the streets,” Stefan said. Once the family arrived in Brisbane, massive flooding had put much of the city underwater. The Svanstroms then narrowly escaped bush fires in Perth.

Flooding After the Cyclone in Cairns

Moving on, the family arrived in New Zealand, just after the 6.3 quake hit Christchurch on February 22. Their last ordeal was in Tokyo, where they experienced Japan’s largest quake ever recorded and the resulting calamitous tsunami. “The trembling was horrible… we saw roof tiles fly off buildings,” Stefan said. (He also survived the devastating tsunami that hit Southeast Asia in 2004).

The couple said the most emotionally upsetting experience during the trip had been the Japanese earthquake and its consequences. “Oh – we’re very grateful that nothing happened to the family and we think a lot about the people, particularly in Japan,” Erika said.

The Svanstroms returned to Stockholm on March 29, 2011 after an uneventful final stop in China. “Although we’ve had some bad luck, we still have our lives. Our thoughts are with those who couldn’t escape these disasters. In the end, we are very fortunate to be alive,” Stefan said. The family plans to continue their travels in the future.

Important Update: Relief Efforts for Japan

March 16th, 2011 -- Posted in Earthquakes, Natural Disasters, Tsunami | No Comments »

by Victoria M. Johnson

Today at 9:30 a.m. on my Grant Whisperer’s Blog Talk Radio Show, special guest Barb Larkin, CEO American Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter, provided excellent details about the situation in Japan and also provided the valuable numbers below.

To find information about friends or loved ones in Japan go to:

Let me repeat that: If anyone you know is still waiting to hear about their loved ones in Japan, refer them to the above web site!

To text a donation text REDCROSS to 90999. The donation is $10 per text and will appear on your monthly bill or will be debited from your prepaid account.

For online donations go to: or call 1-877-727-6771

The recorded episode, Special Guest – Barb Larkin, Air Date March 16, 2011, can be listened to at any time.

Aftermath of Japan quake and tsunami

Barb talked about the disaster in Japan, what the Red Cross is doing to support the relief efforts, disaster fundraising, and how people can help. Barb Larkin is the CEO of the American Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter. Previously, Barb served as Director of Donor Services, Director of Development, and manager of the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund at Community Foundation Silicon Valley. Barb has been an American Red Cross volunteer for over 16 years and is a trained Disaster Fundraising Officer. She is a member of American Red Cross Disaster Services Human Resources system having worked on several disasters including Hurricane Katrina, the San Bernardino wildfires, and Hurricane George.

Tune in to the Blog Talk Radio episode to hear about the relief efforts.

Aftermath of Catastrophic Quake and Tsunami

March 12th, 2011 -- Posted in Earthquakes, Natural Disasters, Tsunami | No Comments »

by Victoria M. Johnson

The situation keeps worsening in Japan. Not only did Friday’s quake and resulting tsunami ravage Japan’s eastern coast, but now 686 are confirmed dead and 9,500 people are missing from the coastal village of Minamisanriku. Authorities confirmed that only about 7,500 residents were evacuated from the village of 17,000 residents.

Man Devastated by Japan 2011 Quake and Tsunami

Officials are still evaluating the calamitous damage. Shaking from the 8.9 quake, the force of the 32-foot high raging tsunami, over a hundred aftershocks and fires. According to AOL News AP report, four whole trains are missing. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says, “Our estimates based on reported cases alone suggest that more than 1,000 people have lost their lives in the disaster. Unfortunately, the actual damage could far exceed that number considering the difficulty assessing the full extent of damage.”

Aided by emergency responders from dozens of countries, 50,000 Japanese troops have joined the rescue and recovery efforts. More than 215,000 people are living in temporary shelters in five prefectures (states). And more than 170,000 were evacuated from their homes due to the threat of radiation from a nuclear power plant malfunction.

Nine Deadly Facts About Tsunamis

February 18th, 2011 -- Posted in Natural Disasters, Tsunami | 1 Comment »

The devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami claimed over 200,000 lives. It struck without warning to the victims caught in the disaster zone.  But tsunamis actually give many warning signals to those monitoring the oceans.  Sadly, the Indian Ocean did not have such monitoring systems.

A Child in Front of the Rubble That Was Her Home

1. Earthquakes, eruptions, and other major disturbances (such as a meteor impact) beneath the sea can cause tsunamis.

2. Tsunamis travel across oceans and build into enormous walls of water as they approach coastal lands.

3. Tsunami wavelengths in the deep ocean travel about 500 miles per hour.

4. Tsunamis generally pass unnoticed on the ocean surface.

5. Sometimes, the first part of a tsunami is a “drawback” where the sea drastically recedes from the shore. This is a deadly warning to get to higher ground.

6. The first wave may not be the largest wave to come.

7. A large tsunami may trigger numerous waves arriving over a period of hours, with considerable time between wave crests.

8. Tsunamis as high as 100 feet crashed into the surrounding islands after the cataclysmic eruption of Krakatoa, Indonesia, killing 36,000 people. But according to National Geographic News, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is the deadliest tsunami in history.

9. It is not possible to prevent a tsunami.

The Day the World Ended

January 22nd, 2011 -- Posted in Earthquakes, Natural Disasters, Volcanoes | No Comments »

If you’re at all like me, you enjoy watching disaster films. Asteroid collisions, volcanic eruptions, mega earthquakes, are all events I love to see (fictionalized—not the real thing). Today the Syfy Channel has a disaster film marathon. With movies like NYC Tornado Terror, Category 6: Day of Destruction, Megafault, and Volcano: Nature Unleashed, scientists and regular citizens scramble to prevent the ultimate disaster that will end the world. In these films earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or extreme weather systems threaten the world as we know it.

Earthquake Fault

I examined what it is I love so much about these kinds of movies and here’s what I discovered. There are people out there who dedicate their lives to studying our planet—disaster films give them the recognition they deserve—as it is often their expertise that saves mankind. The threat of disaster or dealing with the aftermath of the disaster brings people together, giving a sense of hope for the future, that facing the worst the planet has in store for us, we will survive. I also like that sense of survival that comes out in these films, people have to use their wits to stay alive, they have to step up and be brave and do whatever it takes to live. Another thing I enjoy is the often thought-provoking question that many of these films ask. What about you? Share your thoughts on this topic.

The Worst Disasters of 2010

December 23rd, 2010 -- Posted in Earthquakes, Natural Disasters, Volcanoes | No Comments »

2010 has proved to be the deadliest year for natural disasters. This year alone, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and landslides have killed a quarter of a million people.

Haiti Earthquake

It started on January 12, when Haiti’s devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed more than 230,000 people and left more than 1 million people homeless. On February 27, a massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck Chile, killing more than 500 people. That quake also generated a tsunami that further incapacitated the region. March brought about the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Melted ice from the glacier caused floods that led to the evacuation of 800 Icelanders, and volcanic ash forced the closure of air flights that stranded hundreds of thousands of travelers. On April 14, a 6.9 magnitude quake rocked Yushu, China, killing 3,000 people and injuring more than 12,0000. May 27 and 29 hit Guatemala hard. Pacaya volcano erupted first. Two days later a tropical storm caused destructive landslides. July brought devastating floods to Pakistan, killing about 2,000 people and affecting millions more. In August, China’s Gansu Province experienced massive mudslides that killed 1,500 people. And in October, Indonesia endured both a tsunami and the eruption of Mount Merapi volcano. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated and 350 people were killed. As we reflect on the enormous loss of life, we can only hope that Mother Nature is kinder to us in 2011.