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There's No Such Thing As A Natural Disaster

1491 words - 6 pages

‘There’s no such thing as a natural disaster” –Neil Smith. Critical response essay: Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar (Burma).

Neil Smith claims ‘there’s no such thing as a natural disaster. In every phase and aspect of a disaster- causes, vulnerability, preparedness, results and response, and reconstruction’ , this statement, while Katrina specific, reflects upon ‘natural’ disasters’ causes and impacts through the nature and society of the affected area. A prime example highlighting the social impacts on an area heightening nature’s forces into the ‘disaster’ realm is Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar, which caused mass devastation and destruction in May 2008.

The cyclone ...view middle of the document...

Last year, it was concluded that warming oceans could contribute to increasingly severe cyclones with stronger winds and heavier rains ‘While we can never pinpoint one disaster as the result of climate change, there is enough scientific evidence that climate change will lead to intensification of tropical cyclones…The victims of these cyclones are climate change victims.’

A critical point of the cyclone pushing it into the disaster realm is the Government’s response; refusing foreign aid and assistance ‘The generals thought it was just another typical cyclone, where the army would hand out some rice and a few tarps and that would be it the regime made some shocking mistakes early on, really horrible, when they blocked the aid’.
The ongoing impacts this decision are a driving factor as to why it was considered a disaster. The lack of response and aid are still noticeable a year on, with the majority of people who have made their way back to their homes finding widespread destruction of their homes and infrastructure, water supplies, destroyed food stocks and livestock, fishing boats, and other necessities. With little rebuilding efforts seen from the Myanmar government, the aid was eventually being pooled from international and transnational sources, with tremendous help steel needed.

The incompetence of preparedness matches exactly that of what is described by Smith in relation to Katrina. In Myanmar, the main issue was with warning; despite assertions by Myanmar's military government that it warned people about the storm, critics challenge the junta failed to competently alert or evacuate the Delta area, resulting in a far greater death toll then what could have been ‘Villagers were totally unaware, we knew the cyclone was coming but only because the wind was very strong.’
Worst still was the immediate response of the Myanmar Junta , who refused visa entry to international aid, and it is also reported check points were established, blocking Burmese citizens entry to the most severely affected areas, and the mismanagement of the few materials they military accepted ‘The materials were supposed to go to the victims. I could recognise them in the market.’
Only after three weeks did the Junta accepted international aid ‘federal abandonment fostered such a wide spread disaster’ .

As Smith mentioned ‘the results can be assessed in thousands of lives unnecessarily lost, billions of dollars of property destroyed, local economies devastated …We can look at any number of individual decisions taken and not taken that made this [hurricane] such a social disaster’ .
One economic example of the destruction is the flooded paddy fields with seawater. The FAO stated that of the 1.3 million ha of rice fields, 60 percent were affected by the storm; also agriculturally, around 200,000 farm animals, including 120,000 used by farmers to plough their fields were killed, and one year on Less than 10 percent of small...

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