Remember the tsunami that
caused such devastation and loss in Thailand back in 2004? Or how about Hurricane Katrina, and what happened down in New
Orleans, Louisiana? If you were there, would you know what you would need to do to survive? Even more importantly, could
you actually do what you needed to in order to come through such an ordeal? Why should we be bothered to learn how to build
a fire without matches, or how to obtain safe water to drink when all we have to do is get up and go into the kitchen? The answer is simple: natural disasters can strike at any time and deprive
people of electricity and everything else they take for granted and assume will always be around to get them through each
The British luxury passenger liner Titanic
sank on April 14-15, 1912, en route to New York City from Southampton, Eng., during its maiden voyage. The vessel sank with
a loss of about 1,500 lives at a point about 400 miles (640 km) south of Newfoundland.
The great ship, at that
time the largest and most luxurious afloat, was designed and built by William Pirrie's Belfast firm Harland and Wolff
to service the highly competitive Atlantic Ferry route. It had a double-bottomed hull that was divided into 16 presumably
watertight compartments. Because four of these could be flooded without endangering the liner's buoyancy, it was considered
unsinkable. Shortly before midnight on April 14, the ship collided with an iceberg; five of its watertight compartments were
ruptured, causing the ship to sink at 2:20 AM April 15. Inquiries held in the United States and Great Britain alleged that
the Leyland liner Californian, which was less than 20 miles (32 km) away all night, could have aided the stricken vessel had
its radio operator been on duty and thereby received the Titanic's distress signals. Only the arrival of the Cunard liner
Carpathia 1 hour and 20 minutes after the Titanic went down prevented further loss of life in the icy waters.
Titanic construction began in March 31, 1909 in Belfast, Ireland
and was the project of White Star Liners and was built at the Harland & Wolff shipyard. Length of the Titanic
construction spanned about three years and cost nearly $7.5 million to build. A technological marvel of its time,
the Titanic contained eighteen water tight containers fitted with steel doors designed to close within 25 seconds
in order to keep water out of the ship’s interior. Construction of the Titanic took the work of about 3000
laborers and nearly 3 million rivets. White Star had also constructed a smaller version of the Titanic called the
Olympic just a year earlier. Both ships were designed to be the most luxurious ocean liners in operation at the
On the Titanic’s maiden voyage,
the ship embarked from Southampton, England destined for New York on April 10, 1912. With the passengers all aboard
waving to loved ones from the port-side rails, the most luxurious cruise liner set sail for the U.S. The sheer
power of the vessel was enough to snap the moorings of the vessel called New York with the amount of water the
Titanic displaced. The Titanic sailed to Cherbourg in France and later to Queenstown in Ireland to pick up additional
passengers. There were 1320 passengers and 907 crew. The first few days were uneventful and Captain John Smith
continued to increase speed day by day.
we talk about urban legends, it is difficult to ignore the Bermuda Triangle (aka the Devil's Triangle), - approximately
1.3 million sq mi area of the North Atlantic Ocean, notorious for the allegedly mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft.
The Bermuda Triangle is a textbook example of how natural events can be given a hue of the supernatural, and turned into a
full-fledged hoax - with a little creativity and a gullible audience at your disposal. The myth of the Bermuda Triangle has
come into existence over the course of the last few decades, and that is obvious because such myths seldom originate overnight;
but instead gradually develop over the course of several years... and sometimes centuries.
Beyond the Conspiracy Theories
Right from the disappearance of the 165m long USS Cyclops, which vanished
without a trace in the Bermuda Triangle in March 1918, to the Flight 19 incident, wherein five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger bombers
(and a Mariner aircraft) disappeared in December 1945, this region has some of the most unbelievable events to its credit.
But as they say, "if it's too good to be true, it probably isn't," a little bit of investigation
and you realize that the so-called Bermuda Triangle mystery is nothing, but a box full of exaggerated claims. The Flight 19
incident, for instance, turned out to be a simple case of human error, wherein the pilots lost the track of their position
due to bad weather, kept circling over the ocean, and eventually went down when their fuel tanks became empty. Similarly,
if you note that the Mariner aircraft, which went as a part of the search and rescue operation, and eventually disappeared,
was notorious for technical snags, you realize that its disappearance was not at all mysterious.
We don't really
need to resort to some paranormal phenomenon or blame the aliens for these disappearances, when we have obvious reasons, like
rough weather prevailing in the tropical waters (USS Cyclops incident) and human error (Flight 19 incident), at our disposal.
The number of actual disappearances in the Triangle is not at all surprising, if you take into consideration (i) the size
of the demarcated Bermuda Triangle area in the North Atlantic, (ii) the fact that it lies in the tropical waters wherein rough
weather, typically characterized by the presence of thunderstorms and water spouts, is not a rare phenomenon, (iii) the presence
of the jet streams, easterlies and the Gulf stream in this region and (iv) the heavy flow of traffic that this region is subjected
to. More importantly, these natural explanations also help us do away with the theories of methane hydrates and magnetic forces
which sound scientific, but are actually baseless.
Origins of the Bermuda Triangle Myth
So how did the Bermuda Triangle phenomenon come into existence and, more importantly, how did it become so popular if there
is nothing mysterious about it? This so-called mystery began with a series of articles that were published in various newspapers
and magazines in the 1950s, and was further fueled by several books and documentaries which followed throughout the 20th century
into the 21st. But obviously, the authors didn't make any attempt to investigate the incidents that they were speaking
about. If they had done so, they would have known that the demarcated region of the North Atlantic Ocean was as dangerous
as any other part of the Tropics. So who were these people who contributed to the mystery.... or should we say the hoax of
the Bermuda Triangle?
It is not possible to pinpoint one individual in particular with many people contributing
to the rise of this myth. However, there do exist some people who had a major role to play in its rise. One such person was
E. V. W. Jones, whose article titled 'Sea's Puzzles still Baffle Men in Pushbutton Age' put the Bermuda
Triangle into the spotlight. In this article, which was written for Associated Press (AP) and published in the Miami Herald
on 17th September, 1950, Jones spoke about the mysterious region in the North Atlantic wherein ships and aircraft disappeared
without leaving any trace. To support his claim, he enlisted some accidents which occurred in this part of the Atlantic between
1945 and 1950 - including the disappearance of five torpedo planes which took off from the Navy's Fort Lauderdale air
station on 5th December, 1945 (Flight 19 incident), a British airliner (the Ariel), and a British plane (the Star Tiger).
In 1952, yet another article about the mysterious disappearances of vessels and aircraft in the North Atlantic appeared
- this time in the October issue of the Fate magazine, a United States based magazine about paranormal phenomena. In the article
titled 'Sea Mystery at Our Back Door', author George X. Sand linked the disappearances of airplanes and ships
to the supernatural, thus becoming the first person to put forth the concept of supernatural mysteries in the Bermuda Triangle
- and make it sound all the more mysterious. It was this very article by Sand which introduced the world to the demarcated
region between Florida, Puerto Rico, and the islands of Bermuda, which we know today as the 'Bermuda Triangle'.
While a few more articles giving brief accounts of disappearances
in the Bermuda Triangle followed over the course of time, the alleged mystery once again shot to fame in 1962 with an article
that was published in the American Legion Magazine. The article, titled 'The Lost Patrol' by Allen W. Eckert,
stressed on the Flight 19 incident i.e. the 1945 incident involving the five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger bombers wherein 14 people
lost their lives. In his article, Eckert published what were believed to be the last words of the flight leader, wherein he
"we are entering white water, nothing seems
right. We don't know where we are, the water is green, no white" Alongside the disappearance of these five planes, Eckert also stressed on the disappearance of the Mariner aircraft
which was sent as a part of the search and rescue mission. All this information contributed to the popularity of the Devil's
Triangle. Though neither Jones, nor Eckert, made any attempt to reveal that the five TBM Avenger bombers which disappeared
were on a training mission or that the Mariner aircraft was notorious for technical snags it experienced frequently. If they
had, the Flight 19 incident would have been reduced to yet another aviation disaster, instead of the trademark Bermuda Triangle
incident which features in virtually every write-up and documentary about the Triangle today. As with any other mystery, even
the Bermuda Triangle mystery continued to sensationalize with time.
Contributions by Vincent Gaddis and Charles Berlitz
In February 1964, Argosy - a magazine of masterpiece fiction, published an article titled 'The Deadly Bermuda
Triangle' which was written by Vincent Gaddis. In his article, Gaddis cited a pattern of strange events in this region.
It was Vincent Gaddis who coined the phrase 'Bermuda Triangle'. In 1965, Gaddis published his research on
the Triangle in form of a book titled the 'Invisible Horizons: True Mysteries of the Sea'. In this book,
Gaddis enlisted nine separate accidents which occurred in this region, with extensive details about each of them.
While the 'Invisible Horizons: True Mysteries of the Sea',
written by Vincent Gaddis, was the first book on Bermuda Triangle, it was eventually followed by numerous other books, including
the 'Limbo of the Lost' by John Wallace Spencer in 1969, 'The Devil's Triangle' and
'The Devil's Triangle 2' by Richard Winer in 1974 and 1975 respectively, and 'Into the Bermuda
Triangle: Pursuing the Truth Behind the World's Greatest Mystery' by Gian J. Quasar in 2003. While all these
books, and a documentary released in 1971, did contribute to the popularity of the Bermuda Triangle hoax, the credit for actually
sensationalizing this hoax to an extent that the whole world took a note of it goes to Charles Berlitz.
It was Charles Berlitz's 1974 bestseller, 'The Bermuda Triangle',
which gave this mystery a serious boost, such that instantaneously the whole world was aware of this place which gobbled gigantic
ships and aircraft - even before the crew realized what was happening. No other work on Bermuda Triangle was as sensational
as that of Berlitz. Right from Christopher Columbus' log records, wherein Columbus speaks about unusual events he experienced,
to the Flight 19 incident and other recent incidents, Simply put, Berlitz's book had everything required to make Bermuda
Triangle a worldwide sensation - which it actually did, but only until Larry Kusche came into the picture.
Critical Analysis by Larry Kusche
In 1975, the Bermuda Triangle once again shot to fame with the release of Larry
Kusche's critical take on this mystery - 'The Bermuda Triangle Mystery: Solved'. Unlike the previous
authors like Charles Berlitz and Vincent Gaddis, Larry left no stones unturned and investigated all the claims that were made
by them. In his book, Larry cites:
"the legend of the Bermuda Triangle is a manufactured mystery, perpetuated
by writers who either purposely or unknowingly made use of misconceptions, faulty reasoning, and sensationalism."
Larry noticed a 'strange' pattern
wherein ships which never left the port, aircraft which never took off and accidents which happened in some other part of
the Atlantic, found a place in these books about the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle. Loopholes like Berlitz going to the
extent of attributing the disappearance of Mary Celeste to the Devil's Triangle, when this ship never passed through the
region, made it clear that there was nothing unusual about the Bermuda Triangle.
It may come as a surprise for many but the radio transmissions of Flight 19 leader, which have
become an integral part of the sensational literature on the Bermuda triangle, are not even mentioned in the official reports
of the Navy Board of Investigation. The myth of the Bermuda Triangle became even more evident with the
U.S. Navy refusing to identify any such region in the Atlantic, and oceanographers citing that accidents in this region were
not at all rare as a result of weather conditions prevailing here.
Interestingly, the Bermuda Triangle is not the
only place which is notorious for such disappearances of ships and aircraft. The Dragon's Triangle, off the coast of Japan,
is also known for such mysterious disappearances of military vessels and aircraft. While that may not be intriguing any more,
the fact that even this region owes its popularity to none other than Charles Berlitz and his storytelling, surely is!
By Abhijit Naik
The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 has been in the
news lately not only because of its 0nehundredth anniversary, but also because of Hurricane “Katrina” and the
destruction of large parts of New Orleans. Within days of “Katrina” the Washington Post - and many other papers
alike - referred to the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871, the Galveston hurricane of 1900, and most prominently the San Francisco
earthquake to prove the point that “ravaged cities stand their ground” in America. Cities are like the mythical
Phoenix, which is featured in San Francisco’s city seal. They have been resurrected in the past and, therefore, the
argument goes, the outlook for New Orleans is anything but gloomy.Historians in Europe and the United States who have looked
at cities and their response to disasters more closely in recent years, certainly would agree with this conclusion. Cities
“are among humankind’s most durable artifacts.” But where does this remarkable ability of cities to survive
come from; an ability, by the way, which applies to cities in the United States and around the world.
In modern history, in the United States the destruction
of big cities has been caused almost exclusively by natural disasters and accidents, in Europe the reason for destruction
has often been war, whereas Asian countries experienced both. Does this make a difference? Finally, is it really possible
to predict the future of New Orleans and other disaster-stricken cities or would we be neglecting unique aspects that fostered
the rebuilding of cities in the past but may not do so today?
The San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906
The California earthquake of April 18, 1906 ranks as one
of the most significant earthquakes of all time. Today, its importance comes more
from the wealth of scientific knowledge derived from it than from its sheer size. Rupturing the northernmost
296 miles (477 kilometers) of the San Andreas fault from northwest of San Juan Bautista
to the triple junction at Cape Mendocino, the earthquake confounded contemporary geologists with its
large, horizontal displacements and great rupture length. Indeed, the significance
of the fault and recognition of its large cumulative offset would not be fully appreciated until
the advent of plate tectonics more than half a century later. Analysis of the 1906 displacements
and strain in the surrounding crust led Reid (1910) to formulate his elastic-rebound theory
of the earthquake source, which remains today the principal model of the earthquake cycle.
At almost precisely 5:12 a.m., local time, a foreshock occurred with
sufficient force to be felt widely throughout the San Francisco Bay area. The great earthquake broke loose some 20 to 25
seconds later, with an epicenter near San Francisco. Violent shocks punctuated the strong shaking which lasted some 45 to
60 seconds. The earthquake was felt from southern Oregon to south of Los Angeles and inland as far as central Nevada. The
highest Modified Mercalli Intensities (MMI's) of VII to IX paralleled the length of the rupture, extending as far as
80 kilometers inland from the fault trace. One important characteristic of the shaking intensity noted in Lawson's (1908)
report was the clear correlation of intensity with underlying geologic conditions. Areas situated in sediment-filled valleys
sustained stronger shaking than nearby bedrock sites, and the strongest shaking occurred in areas where ground reclaimed
from San Francisco Bay failed in the earthquake. Modern seismic-zonation practice accounts for the differences in seismic
hazard posed by varying geologic conditions.
As a basic reference
about the earthquake and the damage it caused, geologic observations of the fault rupture and shaking effects, and other
consequences of the earthquake, the Lawson (1908) report remains the authoritative work, as well as arguably the most
important study of a single earthquake. In the public's mind, this earthquake is perhaps remembered most for the fire
it spawned in San Francisco, giving it the somewhat misleading appellation of the "San Francisco earthquake".
Shaking damage, however, was equally severe in many other places along the fault rupture. The frequently quoted value
of 700 deaths caused by the earthquake and fire is now believed to underestimate the total loss of life by a factor of
3 or 4. Most of the fatalities occurred in San Francisco, and 189 were reported elsewhere.
A single severe earthquake in 1976, for example, was
responsible for the death of 700,000 people in China. It is estimated that earthquakes caused some two million deaths in the
twentieth century alone. Earthquakes differ from natural catastrophes such as hurricanes and floods as well as from man made
disasters like war because they occur entirely without warning. The sudden movement of the earth, of the very foundation of
human existence, calls the security of this existence into question in unique fashion. Earthquakes leave people with no time
for preparation. They are of short duration: often, just a few moments are sufficient to do as much destruction as warfare
might in days or even weeks. They put societies in an extraordinary situation in which established political, social, economic,
and cultural structures are put to a severe test. Such was the situation on April 18, 1906, On that Wednesday morning, the earth moved an average of ten feet horizontally
and three feet vertically along a 300-mile stretch of the San Andreas fault. Although it is now estimated that the quake measured
8.3 on the Richter scale, damage in the city was initially limited. 7 There were many collapsed chimneys and broken windows,
and numerous buildings lost their facades or roofs, but the majority of buildings survived the tremor. Light wooden houses
appear to have held up just as well as the new downtown skyscrapers built of reinforced concrete, but still, about 5,000 houses
were immediately destroyed. For the most part, they were either located on “made ground” – filled-in swamp
land along the bay – or poorly constructed.
The earthquake had destroyed San Francisco’s obsolete
underground water mains – hydrants throughout the city were useless. Within a few hours, the fires, spreading to the
north and south west from the city center, had become an immense conflagration. One block after another was reduced to ash
and rubble. Attempts to halt the flames at major streets failed repeatedly. Before the day was over, much of the city center
had to be given up as lost. Larger buildings – including the Palace Hotel where the famous singer Enrico Caruso had
spent the night until the earthquake woke him at five in the morning – had their own supplies of water, but once those
supplies were exhausted the buildings could not be saved. Nor could smaller brick and cement buildings, which had been considered
fireproof but now fell victim to the wooden structures that stood adjacent to them. Between Wednesday and Saturday morning,
the fire destroyed 28,000 buildings and caused up to 500 million dollars in damages. Among the losses were the new city hall
– the largest building in the country west of Chicago.
Despite their small size, all thunderstorms are dangerous.
Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes and hurricanes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms
can lead to flash flooding. Strong winds, hail, and tornadoes are also dangers associated with some thunderstorms. High winds
from thunderstorms can cause damage to homes, overturn vehicles, and blow down trees and utility poles, causing widespread
power outages. Many strong thunderstorms produce hail. Large hail, and the glass it may break, can injure people and animals.
Hail can be smaller than a pea, or as large as a softball, and can be very destructive to automobiles, glass surfaces (skylights
and windows), roofs, plants, and crops. Downbursts and straight-line winds associated with thunderstorms can produce winds
of 100 to 150 miles (161 to 241 kilometers) per hour—enough to flip cars, vans, and pickup trucks. The resulting damage
can equal the damage of most tornadoes.
Lightning is a major threat during a thunderstorm. Lightning
produces thunder in a thunderstorm and is very unpredictable, increasing the risk to individuals and property. According to
the National Weather Service, lightning kills on average more than 70 people and injures at least 300 others each year in
the United States. While only about 10 percent of those struck are killed, the large majority of the 90 percent who survive
suffer long-term injuries, such as memory loss, dizziness, muscle spasms, depression, and fatigue. Lightning also causes about
$5 billion in economic loss each year in the United States. Lightning often strikes outside the area of heavy rain and may
occur as far as 10 miles (16 kilometers) from any rainfall. Heat lightning is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far
away for thunder to be heard. You are in danger from lightning if you can hear thunder. Because light travels so much faster
than sound, lightning flashes can sometimes be seen long before the resulting thunder is heard. When the lightning and thunder
occur very close to one another, the lightning is striking nearby. To estimate the number of miles you are from a thunderstorm,
count the number of seconds between a flash of lightning and the next clap of thunder. Divide this number by five. More than
50 percent of lightning deaths occur after the thunderstorm has passed. The National Weather Service encourages you to practice
the 30/30 lightning safety rule: If the time between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder is less than 30 seconds.
More than one million earthquakes occur on the
earth every year. A large majority of earthquakes will go unnoticed by most people because of their slight magnitude. On the
other hand, some earthquakes are very strong and cause considerable damage. According to the distance from the earthquake
epicentre, we have local earthquakes (in the region of the quake), near earthquakes (less than 1.000 km away), remote earthquakes
(roughly up to 10.000 km), and so on. Concerning the magnitude, the earthquakes are described as slight, moderate, great,
and very great (global (catastrophe). In the past, people believed that an earthquake was a sign from gods, bringing punishment
or announcing the end of the world. However, earthquakes are natural movements of the earth's surface. When they occur
on the ocean floor, they are called ocean or submarine earthquakes. Ground motion is produced by seismic waves, which transmit
the tension generated in the interior of the earth. The tension is generated for many years as a result of gradual deformation
of rocks, and finally produces fracturing of a part of the earth's mantle.The place where the shocks originate is called
hypocentre. Directly above the hypocentre, on the surface, is the epicentre. Concentric vibrations spread from the hypocentre
throughout the earth's body. These are the earthquakes or seismic waves. "Seismos" is a Greek word meaning shock.
The strongest shocks are found near the epicentre. They are measured and evaluated by instruments and observation. The most
important instrument for measuring and studying earthquakes is the seismograph. It registers the generated waves.In order
to obtain the most exact results, a seismograph (after its installation) should have a minimal contact with the earth's
surface, otherwise it may register permanent earth movements. The seismographs are therefore isolated from underground movements
by being hung on springs or joints. The distance from the hypocentre is determined using seismic travel-time curve. This is
done by compiling the data concerning the moment of the arrival of various types of waves at various times recorded by a number
of seismographic sites. The distance from the epicentre is then calculated based on the available information. Today, all
this is done using the most advanced computer technology. Once the epicentre is located, the intensity of the quake is measured
in units of magnitude.
This scale was developed in 1935 by a Californian seismologist,
Charles Richter. Measuring of the intensity of the earthquake on the basis of the observed shocks,
which provides information concerning its subjective force, is done using Mercalli scale. When we look
closely at regions where many earthquakes have occurred in recent years, we see that region which is
most prone to earthquakes is at the edges of the continental plates of South and North America, the region of the
Pacific Ocean, South Asia, and southern Europe. The north of Europe, the interior of Australia, and Africa,
as well as some oceans (with the exception of the ocean ridges) are almost free of earthquakes. As yet,
there is no single explanation for shocks occurring in plates, where the earth's crust is considered
stable. It is assumed that the stress on the edges of these plates generates pressure in the middle of
these formations, which may cause earthquakes at "weak points." Earthquake hypocentres are
most common in the depths of 0 to 70 kilometres. Less common are earthquakes having hypocentres in
great depths, of up to 700 kilometres. These occur mainly where due to slow drift of the tectonic plates the crust of plate
edges is pushed down, as is the case, for example, of the South American Andes.
Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster
The Chernobyl nuclear power plant was built in the wooded
marshlands of northern Ukraine, approximately 80 miles north of Kiev. It's first reactor went online in 1977, the
second in 1978, third in 1981, and fourth in 1983; two more were planned for construction. A small town, Pripyat, was
also built near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant to house the workers and their families. On April 25, 1986, reactor four was going to be shut down for some routine maintenance. During the shutdown,
technicians were also going to run a test. The test was to determine whether, in case of a power outage, the turbines could
produce enough energy to keep the cooling system running until the backup generators came online. The shutdown and test began at 1 a.m. on April 25th. To get accurate results from the test, the operators turned
off several of the safety systems, which turned out to be a disastrous decision. In the middle of the test, the shutdown
had to be delayed nine hours because of a high demand for power in Kiev. The shutdown and test continued again at 11:10
p.m. on the night of April 25th. Just after 1 a.m. on April 26th,
the reactor's power dropped suddenly, causing a potentially dangerous situation. The operators tried to compensate
for the low power but the reactor went out of control. If the safety systems had remained on, they would have fixed the
problem; however, they were not. The reactor exploded at 1:23 a.m. The
world discovered the accident two days later, on April 28th, when operators of the Swedish Forsmark nuclear power plant
in Stockholm registered unusually high radiation levels near their plant. When other plants around Europe began to register
similar high radiation readings, they contacted the Soviet Union to find out what had happened. The Soviets denied any
knowledge about a nuclear disaster until 9 p.m. on April 28th, when they announced to the world that one of the reactors
had been "damaged." While trying to keep the nuclear disaster
a secret, the Soviets were also trying to clean it up. At first they poured water on the many fires, then they tried
to put them out with sand and lead and then nitrogen. It took nearly two weeks to put the fires out. Citizens in the
nearby towns were told to stay indoors. Pripyat was evacuated on April 27th, the day after the disaster had begun; the
town of Chernobyl wasn't evacuated until May 2, six days after the explosion. Physical clean-up of the area continued.
Contaminated topsoil was placed into sealed barrels and radiated water contained. Soviet engineers also encased the remains
of the fourth reactor in a large, concrete sarcophagus to prevent additional radiation leakage. The sarcophagus, constructed
quickly and in dangerous conditions, had already begun to crumble by 1997. An international consortium has begun to retrofit
the encasing, expected to be completed in 2007.It is estimated that the radiation from the Chernobyl disaster was 100 times
more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thirty-one people died shortly after the explosion, but thousands
more will die from the long-term effects of radiation.
The 1918 flu pandemic (the Spanish Flu) was an influenza
pandemic that spread widely across the world. Historical and eapidemiological data are inadequate to identify the geographic
origin. Most victims were healthy young adults, in contrast to most influenza outbreaks which predominantly affect juvenile,
elderly, or weakened patients. The flu pandemic was implicated in the outbreak of encephalitis lethargica in the 1920s.
The pandemic lasted from March 1918 to June 1920, spreading even to the Arctic and remote Pacific islands. Between
50 to 100 million died, making it the deadliest natural disaster in human history. An estimated 50 million people, about 3%
of the world's population (1.6 billion at the time), died of the disease. 500 million, or 1/3 were infected.he global
mortality rate from the 1918/1919 pandemic is not known, but it is estimated that 10% to 20% of those who were infected died.
With about a third of the world population infected, this case-fatality ratio means that 3% to 6% of the entire global population
died. Influenza may have killed as many as 25 million in its first 25 weeks. Older estimates say it killed 40–50 million
people while current estimates say 50—100 million people worldwide were killed. This pandemic has been described
as "the greatest medical holocaust in history" and may have killed more people than the Black Death.
many as 17 million died in India, about 5% of the population. In Japan, 23 million people were affected, and 390,000 died.
In the U.S., about 28% of the population suffered, and 500,000 to 675,000 died. In Britain as many as 250,000 died; in France
more than 400,000. In Canada 50,000 died. Entire villages perished in Alaska and southern Africa. Tafari Makonnen (the future
Haile Selassie) was one of the first Ethiopians who contracted influenza but survived, although many of his subjects did
not; estimates for the fatalities in the capital city, Addis Ababa, range from 5,000 to 10,000, or higher, while in British
Somaliland one official there estimated that 7% of the native population died. In Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), 1.5 million
assumed died from 30 million inhabitants. In Australia an estimated 12,000 people died and in the Fiji Islands, 14% of the
population died during only two weeks, and in Western Samoa 22%.
This huge death toll was caused by an extremely
high infection rate of up to 50% and the extreme severity of the symptoms, suspected to be caused by cytokine storms. Symptoms
in 1918 were so unusual that initially influenza was misdiagnosed as dengue, cholera, or typhoid. One observer wrote, "One
of the most striking of the complications was hemorrhage from mucous membranes, especially from the nose, stomach, and intestine.
Bleeding from the ears and petechial hemorrhages in the skin also occurred." The majority of deaths were from bacterial
pneumonia, a secondary infection caused by influenza, but the virus also killed people directly, causing massive hemorrhages
and edema in the lung.
Tissue samples from frozen victims were used to reproduce the virus for study. Given the
extreme virulence, some question the wisdom of such research. Among the conclusions of this research is that the virus kills
via a cytokine storm (overreaction of the body's immune system) which perhaps explains its unusually severe nature and
the concentrated age profile of its victims. The strong immune systems of young adults ravaged the body, whereas the weaker
immune systems of children and middle-aged adults resulted in fewer deaths.
On 28 January,1986 the Challenger space shuttle blew
up 73 seconds after launch. Seven lives and three billion dollars worth of equipment was lost. The Challenger accident was
the result of a faulty sealing system which allowed exhaust flames from the Solid-Fuel Rocket Boosters (SRB) to vent directly
on the external tank, rupturing the tank and causing the explosion. NASA identified the failure due to the improper sealing
of the O-rings, the giant black rubber loops that help seal the segments of the SRBs. The O-ring is made of a fluoroelastomer,
which seals the joint between two solid rocket booster sections. An elastomer is a material that can be deformed dramatically
and recover its shape completely. A rubber band is an example of an elastomer. In almost half of the shuttle flights there
was O-ring erosion in the booster field joints. The launch took place in untested temperature conditions and in spite of serious
warnings on the part of the engineers of Thiokol, the company that manufactured the SRBs. The sequence of events that led
to the unfortunate events is examined in order to draw the necessary conclusions. NASA was very anxious to proceed with the
launch for a variety of reasons including, economic considerations and political pressure. To justify its budget NASA had
scheduled a large number of missions in 1986. It was vital for the Challenger to be launched so that there would be enough
time to refurbish the launch pad to prepare it for the next launch. The European Space Agency was providing added competition
and there was political pressure for the Challenger to be in space when the president of the US gave the State of the Union
Insect swarms are the #9 natural disaster. Scientists
who analyze fossil records suspect that long ago, insects ruled the earth and devoured everything in their
path. An "explosion" (or swarm) involves a vast increase in the number of insect pests, the most common pests being locusts, mosquitoes,
butterflies, moths, beetles, bugs, bees, and dragonflies. No one knows the exact reason for such events,
but rising global temperatures are implicated. Insect populations increase when temperatures rise rapidly.
Warmer weather in northern climates leads to insect migration up from the tropics. Insects migrate in
search of food, and rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere make leaves less nutritious because they contain less
proteins, so consequently, insects are forced to eat more to acquire the nutrients they need. The photo
at right is of the Canary Islands (off the NW coast of Africa) which in 2004 was invaded by an estimated 100 million
hungry locusts, prompting authorities to order massive evacuations. In many countries, locusts are the
primary cause of starvation, and worldwide, bee stings and spider bites kill more people every year than non-insect
bites, such as snakes which kill about 90,000 people a year.
Hurricanes are products of the tropical ocean and
atmosphere. Powered by heat from the sea, they are steered by the easterly trade winds and the temperate westerlies as well
as by their own ferocious energy. Around their core, winds grow with great velocity, generating violent seas. Moving ashore,
they sweep the ocean inward while spawning tornadoes and producing torrential rains and floods. Each year on average, ten
tropical storms (of which six become hurricanes) develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico. Many of
these remain over the ocean. However, about five hurricanes strike the United States coastline every 3 years. Of these five,
two will be major hurricanes (category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale).
In the eastern Pacific, hurricanes begin forming by
mid-May, while in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico, hurricane development starts in June. For the United States,
the peak hurricane threat exists from mid-August to late October although the official hurricane season extends through November.
Over other parts of the world, such as the western Pacific, hurricanes can occur year-round. Developing hurricanes gather
heat and energy through contact with warm ocean waters. The addition of moisture by evaporation from the sea surface powers
them like giant heat engines.
The process by which a disturbance forms and subsequently strengthens into a hurricane
depends on at least three conditions. Warm waters and moisture are mentioned above. The third condition is a wind pattern
near the ocean surface that spirals air inward. Bands of thunderstorms form, allowing the air to warm further and rise higher
into the atmosphere. If the winds at these higher levels are relatively light, this structure can remain intact and allow
for additional strengthening. The center, or eye, of a hurricane is relatively calm. The most violent activity takes place
in the area immediately around the eye, called the eyewall. At the top of the eyewall (about 50,000 feet), most of the air
is propelled outward, increasing the air’s upward motion. Some of the air, however, moves inward and sinks into the
eye, creating a cloud-free area.
Storm surge is a large dome of water often 50 to 100
miles wide that sweeps across the coastline near where a hurricane makes landfall. The surge of high water topped by waves
is devastating. The stronger the hurricane and the shallower the offshore water, the higher the surge will be. Along the immediate
coast, storm surge is the greatest threat to life and property. If the storm surge arrives at the same time as the high tide,
the water height will be even greater. The storm tide is the combination of the storm surge and the normal astronomical tide.
Hurricane-force winds, 74 mph or more, can destroy poorly constructed buildings and mobile homes. Debris, such as signs, roofing
material, siding, and small items left outside, become flying missiles in hurricanes. Winds often stay above hurricane strength
well inland. Hurricane Hugo (1989) battered Charlotte, North Carolina (which is about 175 miles inland), with gusts to near
100 mph, downing trees and power lines and causing massive disruption.
Hurricanes also produce tornadoes, which add to the
hurricane’s destructive power. These tornadoes most often occur in thunderstorms embedded in rain bands well away from
the center of the hurricane. However, they can also occur near the eyewall.
Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storms.
Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornado's can cause fatalities and devastate a neighbourhood in seconds. A tornado
appears as a rotating, funnel-shaped cloud that extends from a thunder-storm to the ground with whirling winds that can reach
300 miles per hour. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Before a tornado hits, the wind may
die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible.
Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm. It is not un-common to see clear, sunlit skies behind
In its earliest stages, tornadoes are said to stem from thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are formed within
three distinct stages, the first being the cumulus-stage. Certain atmospheric conditions which are present during the thunderstorm,
such as moisture in the unstable air and some sort of lifting force, creates atmospheric instability. Unstable air, which
is warm and moist, rises when a lifting mechanism is present. Surface heating, which acts as the primary lifting force, heats
the air near the ground. The air, in turn, becomes buoyant and begins to rise, otherwise known as an updraft. These updrafts,
warm, moist swells of rising air, eventually begin to cool.
all recently been under immense shock on what has happened in some of the regions of Asia last December 26, 2004, just a day
after a joyous Christmas Celebration on the paradise-like place of Phuket and on the island of Sri Lanka. It was a great tragedy
with the toll of dead people reaching about 135,000 now and left many of people injured, homeless and struggling to survive.
Here are some of the facts that you may want
to know about Tsunamis:
the first wave of the tsunami hits, the shoreline recedes tremendously and it may even expose the sea or ocean floor and leave
a bounty of fishes dry. If you happen to see this, never let your curiosity get the better of you and immediately run to higher
- A tsunami can be a series
of waves and mostly the first wave is the less intense of all.
- Tsunamis only affect shallow waters or coastal areas. When tsunamis hit the deep areas of water, it just comes
off as an average big ocean wave. The Physics of tsunamis indicate that as it travels into shallow water, its height increases
even reaching up to a hundred meters (100 m) in height in extreme cases.
- Earthquakes are not the only causes of Tsunami, Tsunamis can also be generated from meteorites falling on a large
body of water, a volcanic eruption, landslide or from any occurence that displaces a large amount of water.
- Animals domestic or wild can almost detect approaching tsunamis.
As observed from the Tsunami that hit last Dec. 26, 2004, the statistics of animals that were affected by the Tsunami were
very very small and even negligible compared to the human casualties. Scientist and animal experts attribute this to the keen,
attuned and senstitive senses of animals as compared to humans.
- Tsunamis can also be earlier detected with a Tsunameter, a device that can detect an approaching Tidal Wave. Unfortunately,
only a few countries could afford this device. Sri Lanka has considered of aqcuiring one but that project was not pushed through.
These are just a few facts that you may want
to know about Tsunamis. Tsunamis are deadly and may cause destruction of lives, properties, and even an entire place. The
best weapon against this kind of unprecedented and unstoppable occurence is a well educated and well informed public so that
even if properties may get washed away, lives may still be saved.
The 1964 Anchorage, Alaska, earthquake and the resulting
tsunami struck without warning on Good Friday, March 27. It was a quiet spring day in Anchorage, a holiday. Temperatures were
seasonably mild with a moderate amount of snow on the ground. Children had the day off from school, and customer traffic in
the stores downtown was light. Many residents were preparing or enjoying dinner at home. At 5:36 p.m. a major earthquake began
to shake the ground, and the earth beneath Southcentral Alaska moved in waves for the next four long minutes. Parents and
children slipped, stumbled and fell on shifting floors in a panicked effort to get outdoors to escape breaking windows. Two
inch cracks appeared in the ground in many places. Roads wrinkled and split and Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage broke
apart and collapsed 10 feet or more. The Government Hill Elementary School twisted, shifted and became unusable in a moment.
The outside wall of the J.C. Penney building crashed to the street. In the Turnagain residential district the ground liquefied
like quicksand, slid away, and swallowed up 75 or more homes. The four minute earthquake released the energy roughly equivalent
to 10 million times the force of an atomic bomb. The mass of the earth and ocean absorbed most of the force, but manmade structures
in the area could not absorb the rest of the force without suffering massive damage. Total property damage was estimated at
$500 million.Anchorage was crippled as gas lines and water lines were severed abruptly. Residents resorted to melting snow
for water while awaiting repairs. Four days later students returned to available schools as life in Anchorage began to recover.
Hindenburg’s three-day transatlantic crossing
that began on Monday evening, 3 May 1936 was uneventful but for bad weather that seemed to dog the journey. At midnight, the
Hindenburg encountered its first storm over the North Sea, and by predawn, it had risen from its usual cruising altitude of
800 to 1,000 feet (244-305 meters) to 2,100 feet (640 meters) to fly above the storms as it followed the English Channel.
Midday Tuesday saw the Hindenburg resume a normal cruising altitude as it passed southwest of Ireland, but again encountered
strong headwinds heading out over the Atlantic. Wednesday passed uneventfully enough as the Hindenburg sailed within
808 miles (1,300 km) of Newfoundland, Canada. Reportedly, Captain Lehmann spent some time that evening in the lounge playing
his accordion for passengers.
The next day, 6 May 1936 at roughly 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the great shadow
of the Hindenburg slipped over New York City as it majestically crisscrossed the city. The international passengers were treated
to views of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Harlem, the Bronx and a baseball game in progress between the
Pittsburgh Pirates and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets field. While the Hindenburg had the option to land at 4:00 p.m., a lightening
storm in the area caused Commander Pruss to opt for a scenic ride up the Eastern seaboard instead, hoping weather conditions
would improve before having to set down. As hoped, the sky began clearing, and at 7:00 p.m. the mighty Hindenburg approached
the Naval airbase in Lakehurst, New Jersey to set down. A crowd of reporters, dignitaries and well-wishers were on hand for
the newsworthy event.
The starboard bow mooring rope dropped to the ground 260 feet (79 meters) below at 7:23 p.m.,
just as witnesses saw a blue arc forward of the tail fin, followed by a huge fiery explosion. Flames engulfed the entire rear
of the Hindenburg and the airship began falling, stern first, to the ground. Fire shot across the ship’s skin, fueled
by the hydrogen within, as the nose of the bow shot flames skyward, following the stern down.
Ground crews below
ran for their lives with the colossal fiery ship swallowing the sky above. Many passengers and crew of the Hindenburg frantically
leapt for their lives through broken windows, some attempting to slide down mooring ropes as the unbelievable catastrophe
unfolded. No sooner had the gigantic ship collapsed into a fiery heap, than ground crews ran back into towering smoke and
flames to help escaping passengers that rode the Hindenburg to the ground. Many people were pulled from the wreckage on fire,
while others miraculously escaped unharmed. The entire disaster took place in just 32 seconds.
The famine in Ethiopia 1984-1985 is considered one of
the most devastating famines in the history of mankind. There were actually two famines, both of which were equally destructive,
during this period - one in the northern region and one in the southern region. The famine in the north was mainly due to
the government's callous carelessness and the famine in the south was mainly due to the failure of short rains at that
The reign of the Derg is widely considered the most important cause of the famine in Ethiopia 1984. When
the Derg was in control, there were insurgencies in as many as fourteen of the country's administrative regions. A lot
of local groups were competing against each other to take control of the country during this period. So, in order to put an
end to all these insurgencies, the Derg started to kill the 'suspected' enemies of the government. This period (1977
to 1978) is called the Red Terror during which hundreds of thousands of people were killed systematically by the Derg. It
won't be farfetched to say that the seeds of the famine in Ethiopia 1984 were deliberately sown during the Red Terror.
During this period, the AMC (Agricultural Marketing Corporation), a corporation set up by the Derg, started extracting food
from the peasants in the rural areas to feed the urban population. This move was a direct result of the nationwide unrest
among the urban population thanks to the insurgencies. The Derg tried to pacify the urban population by giving food grains
at very cheap prices. However, this turned out to be a disaster for the rural population, especially the peasantry. The Derg
fixed a very low price for food grains and this turned out to be a disincentive to production in the rural areas. The farmers,
who were supposed to give their share of food grains to the AMC, bought grains in the open market amassing a lot of debts.
One of the most heinous moves of the Derg was the restriction of non-agricultural activities. Thanks to this shocking move,
the farmers were not able to engage in non-agricultural activities such as migrant labor and petty trading. As a result, they
were not able to supplement their poor income. During this period, nearly 500,000 farmers lost a significant part of their
income which led to a collapse in state run commercial farms. All these things led to the famine in Ethiopia 1984 in the northern
part of the country. In the mid eighties, things were chaotic in Ethiopia. The local insurgencies, the total failure of crops,
and the Derg's reckless attitude led to a major humanitarian crisis during the aftermath of the famine in Ethiopia 1984.
Nearly six million people were dependant on relief food and waterborne diseases and hunger deaths were rampant. During this
time, the international community severely criticized the government and a lot of relief organizations offered food to the
affected people. The people who lived in the famine-hit part of the country were moved to the southern part. The famine in
Ethiopia 1984 affected nearly eight million people. The estimated death toll is over one million. A lot of historians called
it a 'Biblical famine in the 20th century'. A lot of countries including the U.S., the Soviet Union, Germany, Poland,
Canada, and Switzerland were involved in the humanitarian response to the famine.
The Exxon Valdez oil spill was one of the greatest ocean
disasters in modern day history. The problems caused by the spill were too great for even the large company to hide under
a market umbrella. The spill happened years ago, but it still remains a popular topic because of its effects on the environment.
The Exxon Valdez oil happened in 1989 on March
24, near Alaska in the Prince William Sound. It was one of the worst environmental disasters that had a human cause. Over
10 million gallons of oil spilled into the environment and the location made it difficult for clean up crews to reach the
area. Before workers reached the scene, over 11,000 square miles were affected. The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill gives more details
on the overview, as does Remembering the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.
The Exxon Valdez ship left around 9 pm on March 23 of that year. The ship was forced to move around because of ice
in the area. Two met steering the ship apparently started a 12 hour ship without first getting the proper amount of time off.
The captain requested permission to move the ship again because of ice and moved it again, where it hit Bligh Reef. The Reef
cracked the hull of the ship, causing the oil to spill out. Had the captain kept the ship on course, the problem wouldn’t
have occurred. The cause is discussed at History & Facts and The Encyclopedia of Earth.
A large amount of problems caused by the oil spill were caused by
the cleanup measures. Oil was pushed into the water and also pushed off microbial organisms such as plankton. Other animals
depended on those organisms for survival, but they were destroyed during the cleanup. A large amount of oil stayed on the
coastline where it still sits today. Hundreds of thousands of animals died right away including sea otters, seabirds, bald
eagles, harbor seals and orcas. Many animals continued to die later or experience health problems. The company couldn’t
hide the problems under their umbrellas though they did try. Oil Spills and NOAA Fisheries focuses on the impacts.
The spill led to several different cleanup measures.
A private company arrived first and used a mixture that caused the oil to slide off the surface of objects and mix with the
water. They didn’t have enough of the product so they were called back. A second cleanup measure involved using an explosion
to reduce the amount of oil, but was called off because of bad weather. The company brought it mechanical equipment, but it
only worked for a short period of time before becoming clogged. High pressure water hoses forced the oil off the shore and
into the water. The Anchorage Daily News and Prince William Sound discuss the clean up measures.
The aftermath is carefully looked at by NOAA
and Exxon Valdez the Aftermath. Exxon Mobile claimed that no harmful effects were shown on the environment, though other studies
dispute this fact. They claim that the oil spilled still causes problems today in the animal population. Exxon Mobile lost
a lawsuit totaling $287 million for damages and several billion dollars in punitive damages. A further investigation into
the case found that the master of the ship was quite possibly under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.
They also discovered that the crew and the Coast Guard were both partly at fault. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990, which specified
that any vessel involved in an oil spill couldn’t operate in Prince William Sound, came about as result of the spill.
The Exxon Valdez was repaired and is still in use today.
Hillsborough Stadium Football Disaster, 15 April 1989 At the FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest which was held at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough
Stadium on 15 April 1989 a tragedy unfolded that involved the death of many Liverpool supporters. As the kick-off time approached
there was an increasing crush outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles. To avoid injury, the police decided to open an exit gate
to let more fans into the stadium. This resulted in a major influx of fans into an already crowded part of the ground, causing
many to be crushed against security and crush barriers on the terraces in the West Stand. 96 of them died from their injuries.
An inquiry, chaired by Lord Justice Taylor, published its findings (known as the Taylor report) in August 1989 and January
1990. It outlined the events of that day and made a number of recommendations on football stadium design. Copies of the reports
are available in the Local Studies and the Arts and Social Sciences libraries in Sheffield Central Library. In the immediate
aftermath of the tragedy there was considerable controversy over the way some newspapers reported the events and also in the
conduct of the South Yorkshire Police.
Asteroid impacts are the #10 natural
disaster. Sure, the big impact events only happen about every 14,000 years, and the planet killers only come around
every 300 million years, but stuff falling out of the sky happens all the time (most of it from nature). 500 meteorites
strike the Earth's surface every year. At least ten, big near-misses from big asteroids have occurred during 1994-2007.
A large object striking Earth would inject huge quantities of dust into the stratosphere, depress temperatures around the
globe, and lead to massive crop loss and the possible breakdown of society. The death toll might be in the billions.
Outer space, it turns out, is pretty crowded with a lot of junk. NASA and groups like the Catalina Sky Survey estimate
that there are at least 900 "Potentially Hazardous Asteroids" out there threatening earth at present. In addition,
there are an estimated 7000 "Near Earth Objects" traveling about in space. Even a near-miss is significant
because it almost always creates some degree of electromagnetic interference in the Earth's magnetosphere, sometimes triggering
natural disasters, fire storms, and unknown effects. Advance warning may be zero in some cases.
Transportation accidents most often involve airlines,
ferries, boats, railways, and roads. The worst airline disaster in history was the 1977 Tenerife collision in the Canary
Islands when two, fully-loaded 747s taxied into one another on the runway. The worst ferry disaster (and deadliest transport
disaster, and worst peace-time maritime disaster in history) was the 1987 MV Doña Paz incident in the Philippines when
an overcrowded ferry boat struck a oil tanker, burst into flames, sank immediately, and only 21 of 4,000+ passengers could
hold their breath long enough underwater to swim to safety.
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