'The hazards presented by volcanic and seismic events have the greatest impact on the worlds poorest people'. To what extent do you agree with this view?
'The hazards presented by volcanic and seismic events have the greatest impact on the world’s poorest people'. To what extent do you agree with this view?
Firstly I believe that this statement is true but only to a partial extent. Hazards presented by tectonic activity can be managed and controlled so their impacts are lessened and even not felt. However such management involves planning, prediction and action, all of which may cost considerable amounts of money, unavailable to the poorest people.
For example, ever since its primary eruption in 1968 Mount Etna has been constantly erupting every year. Though these eruptions are not always violent sometime volcanic bombs can be fired from the composite volcano and since its eruption in 1968 it has killed around 77 people, most of these unwitting tourists who did not take enough care. However due to the volcano being located in the fairly rich area of Sicily the impacts of its hazards have been managed and fairly efficiently. For example, explosives were first used to relocate the andesitic lava flows away from settlements, protecting people’s housing and property. More recently, Sicily has had the funds to construct artificial lava tunnels to conveniently drain the lava away when Etna erupts.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Moreover Sicily has managed to accurately predict the size and frequency of the eruptions of Etna by using remote sensors which measure the bulge of the volcano, a tell tale sign of the imminent eruption. In combination to this, they sample the gas concentration of the gas released by Etna, using this to predict when an eruption will occur and how large it will be. This allows the Sicilian government to take appropriate action whether that is closing off the site to tourists or evacuating the surrounding areas. This will reduce the impact of the volcano on the surrounding area but such schemes cost money for machinery and employment, money poorer countries may not have.
For example, Mount Pinatubo is an ash cinder volcano located in the Philippines, 90 km away from the capital, Manilla. Lying on the subductive plate margin between the subducted Philippines plate and continental Eurasian plate, Pinatubo is quite an explosive, violent volcano. After being reignited in 1990 due to a magnitude 8 earthquake, Pinatubo went on to erupt in 1991. The effect of this eruption was enormous. 30 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide was released, reducing average global temperatures by up to 0.5C. Much ash and cinder was released which combined with the water vapour heavy in the air to form tephra which covered nearby buildings in layers up to 33cm thick making them collapse. Pyroclastic flows and hot gas rolled down the mountain. As an impact of this, 800 people died, 10 times the amount killed by Etna. Most of these people died in collapsed buildings due to the weight of the tephra. Also $500000 worth of damage was made to infrastructure and business.
Even though it is obvious that the volcano which had the greatest impact was Pinatubo, it is difficult to ascertain whether this is due to the Philippines being economically poorer than Sicily, or simply because the eruption of Pinatubo in 1991 was more powerful and of a greater scale.
Seismic events also present many hazards to rich and poor countries alike. For example the well developed city of Kobe in Japan was hit by a magnitude 7 earthquake early one morning at 5am in 1995. A heavily industrialised fishing port, the ground beneath Kobe rose by 20cm and shifted horizontally by 12cm. The impacts were great. Of the 150 quays present 120 were destroyed. Furthermore the Hanshin expressway and bullet train route were damaged and overturned for one mile in length. A total of 6000 people died and many were left homeless. A great fire started by leaking gas consuming thousands of wooden houses in the old quarter.
Though seismic hazards seemed to have caused a great impact, it may have been more so if Kobe did not have the resources or the money to react in time. Kobe quickly enlisted up to 1.2 million volunteers to help with excavating people and distributing aid and privatised its Hanshin Expressway for aid vehicles only, making sure aid got to its destination quickly.
As well as this Japan was able to afford to invest in earthquake proof infrastructure after the event and continues to carry out earthquake drills in schools and work places every year on the anniversary.
As shown Japan’s wealth allowed Kobe to quickly recover from the earthquake and reduce the impacts of the hazards while it could, as well as being well prepared for future events.
However, the relatively poor country of Iran was even badly affected by an earthquake during 2003. At 5.00am also, an earthquake of magnitude 6.6 shook the city of Bam. Its 2000 year old citadel and town made out of straw, mud and clay, 90% of the city was razed to the ground trapping many under the rubble.
A total of 30000 died, medical treatment scarcely being given due to Bam’s two hospitals also collapsing killing most of its medical staff with it. Most of the city’s officials were also killed, making decision making and action difficult. Only 4 rescue teams turned up within the first 48 hours after the quake which is abysmal when compared to Kobe’s 1.2 million volunteers. The effects were made even worse by the earthquake occurring on a Friday, the Moslem day of rest so most people were still sleeping. If Iran were a richer country, would the poor infrastructure which killed so many have been replaced with sturdier building materials, allowing medical treatment to be given and aid called in and easily transported?
In conclusion, I agree with the statement to a large extent. The less money a country has the less prepared and efficient it can be when dealing with seismic or volcanic hazards. However I believe that the wealth of the people is only one factor affecting the impacts of hazards and that the nature of the seismic activity, such as whether P waves or S waves affect the area, or the volcanic event, such as whether it is a violent composite volcano or a gentle shield volcano have more importance in determining the impact of its hazards. Many other factors such as people’s culture, religion and ideology may also play a part. (1035 words)