|Earthquakes & Natural
"And there shall be ... earthquakes..." (Mat 24:7)
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- The Big Shake-up
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The 5.5 strong earthquake that shook Kabul and an area west of the city Thursday night claims 50 lives and injured 200, Reuters said. The quake caused several mud-built dwellings in the capital to collapse and panic among some residents who thought they were being attacked by U.S. warplanes or missiles in Washington's search for Saudi militant Osama bin Laden, who is based in Afghanistan. The quake was felt as far away as the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
Storms, floods, droughts and fires have caused a record $89 billion in economic losses this year  worldwide, more than was lost from weather-related disasters in all of the 1980s, according to a private study.
The report, released by the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research group, blamed human meddling for some of the disasters.
"More and more, there's a human fingerprint in natural disasters, in that we're making them more frequent and more intense and we're also making them more destructive," said Seth Dunn, research associate and climate change expert at the institute.
This year's damage was far ahead of the $55 billion in losses for the entire decade of the 1980s. Even when adjusted for inflation, the 1980s losses, at $82.7 billion, still fall short of the first 11 months of this year.
In addition to the material losses, the disasters have killed an estimated 32,000 people and displaced 300 million--more than the population of the United States.
A combination of deforestation and climate change caused this year's most severe disasters, among them Hurricane Mitch, the flooding of China's Yangtze River and Bangladesh's most extensive flood of the century, according to the report.
There was nothing "natural" about the awful disaster of Hurricane Mitch. Those thousands of lives were lost to mud, water, hunger and disease through human agency. Hillsides dissolved and shantytowns vanished in the flood waters because of economic and political policies, mostly imposed at the point of a gun.
If you want to pick a date when the fates of those thousands of poor people was sealed, it wasn't when Hurricane Mitch began to pick up speed off the coast of Honduras. It came 44 years ago, in 1954, when the United Fruit Co., now renamed Chiquita Banana, prodded the CIA to take action against the moderately leftist government of President Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. Arbenz had purchased vast unused stretches of productive land held by United Fruit and was planning to redistribute it to poor peasants.
A CIA-organized coup was not long in coming. Guatemala entered its long night. Along with Arbenz vanished all prospect of land reform, not merely in Guatemala but throughout Central America.
Through the next 30 years in Central America, small peasants were pushed off their traditional holdings by local oligarchs flush with money and military equipment furnished by the U.S. The peasants had no option but to migrate to forested hillsides too steep to be of interest to oligarchs and foreign companies. Year after year, the peasants tried to ward off starvation, raising subsistence crops on slopes so extreme that sometimes, in photographs from El Salvador, one comes across a peasant working his land while tied to a stake, so he won't slip. In such manner the trees got cut down and the land worked and overworked, until a tropical storm would send the bare hillsides careening down in deadly mudslides.
Tens of thousands of other peasant families, forced off the good land, moved into Managua or Tegucigalpa or other towns and cities. The consequent shantytowns burgeoned along riverbanks, on precarious flood basins where at least the inhabitants had access to water. As with the degraded hillsides, these shantytowns were deathtraps, awaiting the inevitable.
So, for years now, those worn hillsides and flood plains throughout Central America have been awaiting Mitch.
The only way forward is for the peasants to be given good agricultural land and adequate financial resources. That's even less likely now than it was in 1954.
A couple of years ago, Hurricane Lili struck Cuba. The government had evacuated thousands, stockpiled sandbags, positioned backup generators, rallied medics. When Lili moved on, thousands of homes had been destroyed, but less than half a dozen lives lost. Just recently, the right-wing President Arnoldo Aleman of Nicaragua refused offers of help from Fidel Castro, making disparaging remarks about Cuba's political system and saying, incredibly, that Nicaragua needed even greater disciplines of the free market to recover from the disaster. There's a bleak truth Aleman and many others should reflect upon: "Natural" disasters are nature's judgment on what humans have wrought.
An earthquake with magnitude 6.0 struck western Colombia today, killing at least 144 people and injuring more than 900 as it toppled buildings across the country's coffee-growing heartland, Reuters reported. The quake epicenter was located in western Valle del Cauca state, 140 miles west of the capital, Bogota. The death and damage toll appeared to be highest in Armenia, Pereira and Calarca - three cities near the epicenter.
TV images from Pereira showed several demolished buildings, a taxi flattened under fallen debris and the body of a woman trapped under the rubble. Firefighters battled blazes and smoke billowed from burning buildings. TV footage showed residents frantically trying to extract victims trapped below the debris of a fallen building in the city, the capital of Quindio state. The earthquake was felt in most of the country, but the majority of the victims and damage was concentrated in 17 municipalities.
The death toll from the worst earthquake to hit Colombia in more than a century neared 1,000 on Tuesday, AP reported. Monday's 6-magnitude earthquake devastated cities and villages across western Colombia, a vast Andean terrain where much of the world's coffee is grown. The temblor shook buildings as far away as the capital, Bogota, 140 miles from the epicenter. Two small aftershocks hit Armenia on Tuesday afternoon, causing little damage but sending panicked residents running into the rubble-littered streets. There have been about 15 aftershocks
The second earthquake during the past week struck southern Australia on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. local time. The magnitude 3.2 temblor was centered about 18 miles (30 km) northeast of the South Australia town of Eudunda. An earthquake measuring a magnitude of 3.5 occurred nearby on Saturday in the town of Burra. Seismologists say that there are usually only two or three earthquakes registering these magnitudes in South Australia each year, but in the past year 180 small tremors have occurred in the state, mostly in the Flinders Ranges.
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|Articles on this Page
Afghan quake claims 50 lives
Disaster toll for 1998 outdoes all of 1980's
Mitch: The unnatural disaster caused by human greed
Western Colombia shaken by Earthquake
Colombia: Worst quake in more than a Century
9000% Increase in tremors in Australia
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