To what extent is the Human response to hazards affected by variations in the economic resources available?
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June 2000 Generalisation 2 To what extent is the Human response to hazards affected by variations in the economic resources available? Introduction A Natural hazard can be defined as a natural event that can cause a potential threat and loss of life to humans and the surrounding natural environment. As well as being a threat to humans in a social way, through loss of life and injuries the economy can also be damaged by a natural event. This was shown by the 1992 Hurricane that struck the East Coast of America. As well as causing social impacts, the major impact was economic with over $26 billion damage being done by the hurricane. Hazards are a very real threat to population around the world, with over 1500 active volcanoes around the world and between 50 and 60 eruptions every year. This report, as the title suggests will focus on responses to a hazard and examine how this varies with economic resources available. A human response to a hazard involves how the government and other organisations try to restore the area to how it was before the event. (see below diagram) In the short term this may include finding survivors, sheltering the homeless and providing food and water to the survivors. Whereas in the long term, homes will need to be rebuilt and the water, electricity and road infrastructure may have to be rebuilt.
This led to resentment amongst the population against the government due to their lack of planning and management, which led to many people believing more lives were lost than could have been as the government was slow to react. Because the governments responses were limited for this event, the impacts of the flooding will be felt for many years to come. The communication infrastructure that had only been recently installed on the Island and damage to roads has been extensive. As the stature of Sumatra is an LEDC, the government has very little money to respond to the damage caused to the island. This will mean that long term development of Sumatra's economy in areas such as Tourism and rubber plantations will be stagnant as both these industries are heavily reliant on roads and communication networks. Hurricane Isabel hit the East Coast of the USA in 2003. It was the direct cause of 17 deaths and upwards of $10 billion damage. The responses were due to the USA stature as an MEDC. This area of the US suffers from hurricanes regularly and because of this and the USA's stature as an MEDC, responses are well practised and developed. The hurricane itself had been tracked across the Atlantic and it was known when it would hit the East Coast. This allowed the authorities to organise response to the hurricane once it had hit.
The contrast between LEDC responses and MEDC impacts could not be more clearly defined. As was seen in the case studies of both the USA and UK, hazard management is an effective way of responding to the hazard. This was shown by the case study of hurricane Isabel as after the hurricane had struck the authorities could predict which areas would be most badly damaged and therefore concentrate relief efforts there. Planning for the hazard is in fact a more effective response than clearing up well after the hazard. This was shown in the case study of Yorkshire where flood defences had been built only in areas deemed at risk and with a population to defend. Although the effects of flooding was still bad, due to accurate risk assessment, the most economically important areas of Yorkshire were saved from the worst of the flooding due to a co-ordinated response to the risk of flooding by the building of flood defences. Another difference between MEDC and LEDC countries in their responses is the ability of an MEDC to compensate people for damage caused to their property. Because of this, an MEDC (Which usually only suffers damage to its economy) can compensate business' and have them working as they were prior to the event. This reduces the overall impacts as was seen in the USA when much of the responses post hurricane were targeted to keeping business' trading, with responses such as replacing all damaged power and telecommunication lines.
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