(Part One)

THE following are the components constituting a disaster:

1. Unfortunate or calamitous event

2. Result in injury, loss of life, destruction of property

3. Often overwhelms local response resources such as health care, law enforcement, shelter, transportation, power, water supply, etc.

4. Can occur naturally such as floods, earthquakes, typhoons, etc., or they are man-made like human error or intervention such as accidents, terrorism, etc.

Natural Disasters:

Floods -- are the most common natural disaster. Most of the world’s population are located on land subject to floods such as riverside, flood plains and coastal areas. Land in these areas are flat, easy to build structures and the soil are fertile and easier to till than upland. Increasing affluence, greed and leisure have led real estate developers to use coastal properties for residential and resort purposes.

Since rivers and ocean are means of approach to trade and industry, cities are build around these areas for commerce. Overflow of the river and sea can easily flood these areas with destruction of crops, extensive damage to property, cut transportation, disrupt the life of the city and the loss of life. It is estimated that great floods result to damage in rural and agricultural properties to about 50 percent, urban and industrial properties to about 30 percent and transportation and communication facilities to about 20 percent.

Most deaths are due to drowning of people wading through rushing flood water. Moving water can easily carry a vehicle away which will be difficult for passengers to get out and most will be trapped and drowned. Flood water contain human and animal wastes from sewage, a common source of infectious agents that can infect the flood victims, volunteers, people involved in the rescue and response teams especially those who are concerned in the clean-up drive after the impact.

Contaminated foods and drinking water should be discarded. Utensils that are used for eating or anything that will come in contact with the mouth including play toys of children should be thoroughly cleaned. Hands should be washed frequently. Skin sores and open wounds should be protected.

Typhoons cause destruction by the direct action of the high velocity winds on people and property causing damage to residential homes leaving thousands of families homeless, damage to places of work leaving may people unemployed, and damage to school buildings leaving thousands of students without schools.

Besides the direct damage they cause, typhoons are accompanied by much rains to cause rivers to overflow, flooding adjacent and surrounding areas and sea water flooding the coastal areas. Much rains and flood can cause land to slide. Most of the injuries and deaths from typhoons are the failure of some people to follow advice and warning. Some may even refuse to evacuate and prepare for the coming calamity.

Earthquakes: The destructive power of earthquakes result in roads, buildings and bridges collapsing, street and land splitting open and the concomitant landslides. In populated areas landslides ruin buildings and kill people.

Significant destruction may occur by the events that are triggered following the quake such as fires from fuel leaks and live wires which are more destructive than the tremors themselves.

Fire presents a constant threat to life and property. Out of control fire can kill great number of persons and cause property damage. In 1923, the earthquake in Yokohama and Tokyo, Japan caused property loss estimated at 95% from the fires that followed.

Immediately after the quake, fires started simultaneously in 200 different places. In Tokyo, after 48 hours, 65 percent of the city was destroyed. In Yokohama, a city with a population of 750,000 persons was burned to the ground.

In the fire following the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, USA, 28,000 buildings were burned to the ground at an estimated loss of more than three hundred fifty million dollars.

The hazards created by a burning building include: the smoke which can cause suffocation, the heat which will increase quickly to a point where human existence is no longer possible, and the toxic gases mostly from carbon monoxide and other gases. Ventilation is necessary by breaking windows opening vents or a hole in the roof to let the smoke, heat and toxic gases escape which if left bottled-up by the pressure could cause an explosion.

If firefighting is made useless from destroyed firefighting equipments from the earthquake and usually no water, the fire will burn everything. It is estimated that about 70-90 percent of property loss are from fires triggered by the earthquake. (To be continued)