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Impacts of Natural Disasters

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Impacts of Natural Disasters[edit]


Natural disasters range from climatic cataclysms such as droughts, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes to geological catastrophes like volcanoes and tsunamis. Their consequences are both short-term and long-term and lead to either positive or negative consequences. Generally, natural disasters affect physical infrastructural facilities and lead to a lack of agricultural productivity. They tend to cause loss of life and damage to property. Various factors influence the effects of natural disasters on a country. Among them is the magnitude of the disaster, the geography of the area affected, and recovery efforts directed towards reducing the immediate consequences. Failure to lessen the short-term economic issues impacts the long-term economic growth of a country. Some disasters can be so devastating that it wipes out human life in some areas. Whatever the disaster may be, it affects societies both negatively and positively.

Effects of Natural Disasters on Natural Resources[edit]

Natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes dislodge trees causing a reduction in forest cover. Animals that used to live in forests must migrate because their habitat would be destroyed. Hurricanes and tsunamis also wash away the fertile topsoil reducing soil fertility that negatively affects the farming industry. Natural disasters such as droughts and floods affect crop and livestock farming thus reducing agricultural production. This results in increased food prices, which in turn affects the economic stability of a region or country. Natural disasters also lead to the destruction of wildlife and natural habitats thus affecting tourism. For instance, storms such as the Tenerife storm in 2005 destroyed ‘El Dedo de Dios’ an important tourist attraction in Macaronesia thus affecting tourism in that region. Natural disasters can also have beneficial effects on natural resources. During a flood, various nutrients are added to rivers and lakes from the flood. Volcanic eruptions emit ash and lava which are rich in nutrients such as magnesium, and phosphorus which are all beneficial to plant growth and soil fertility. Especially in parts of North America and South Africa, precious stones and gems are brought to the Earth’s surface during a volcanic eruption. Hot temperatures and high pressures deep down in the Earth’s crust create rare and priceless gems called kimberlites. These types of stones are discharged during an eruption and can be found near the volcano. They are worth a lot of money and therefore offer new opportunities for traders.

Effects of Natural Disasters on Infrastructure[edit]

One of the most immediate and economically devastating concerns with natural disasters is the damage to both public and private infrastructure. These events can cause billions of dollars in damages, and not all governments are equipped and ready to fund the process of post-disaster clean-up and rebuilding. Further, many people in lesser developed countries do not have property insurance, and certain natural disasters fall outside of the scope of insurance coverage. In the wake of a disaster, people can end up losing all their assets with no opportunity for restoration. Natural disasters can have long-term negative consequences beyond the immediate loss of life and demolition of infrastructure. Often, an area impacted by a natural disaster will show scars of the event for years to come. Natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods often destroy infrastructural facilities such as roads and airports affecting transportation and economic growth. Thousands of people become stuck in the country because flights are not operational. People can’t communicate using telephones or other electrical devices due to power failures and energy supply shortages. Natural disasters can also trigger the release of toxic substances, such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster; fires, and explosions, potentially resulting in health effects, environmental pollution, and economic losses.

Impacts of Natural Disasters on The Population[edit]

Natural disasters can have negative effects on the population growth of a country. Many lives are lost during natural catastrophes which reduces the population of a region or a country affecting its economy. At the individual level, the impact can often be felt physically, mentally, and emotionally. Natural disasters cause the destruction of property, loss of financial resources, and personal injury or illness. The loss of resources, security and access to shelter can lead to massive population migrations in lesser-developed countries. After experiencing a natural disaster, many individuals can develop mental stress disorders or withdraw into states of depression. Others develop negative associations with the environment, in more developed nations; this can also lead to significant population migrations. Communities that experience a natural disaster must also absorb the impacts of these destructive events. Many local communities lose so much in economic resources that recovery becomes difficult, if not almost impossible to restore their land. Some communities find opportunities in the aftermath of a disaster to rebuild better and stronger communities than before. Communities must often recognize population, demographic, and cultural shifts because of the impact of the natural disaster on their citizens.

Economic Impacts of Natural Disasters[edit]

Natural disasters negatively affect important sectors of a country’s economy. Natural disasters affect a country’s energy production stations including oil refineries and nuclear plants leads to energy crisis, which results in high oil prices. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi gulf coast. In New Orleans alone, more than 200,000 homes were destroyed; over 70 per cent of the resident population had to be at least temporarily relocated outside of the greater New Orleans area. In addition, huge sums of federal assistance were necessary to help jump-start recovery efforts in the city and surrounding region. Estimates of over $105 to $150 billion in reduced tax revenue, loss of infrastructure, the expense of reclamation efforts, and loss of normal revenue were lost to the city. Beyond the economic losses to New Orleans, it is estimated that the United States economy suffered a 2 per cent loss of overall gross domestic product within one year of the disaster as a direct result of the hurricane and its impact on this important international port city. Hurricane Katrina affected oil refineries and pipelines in the U.S. Gulf coast leading to higher oil prices nationally and internationally. This led to slower economic growth in the regions hit by the hurricane. Natural disasters also lead to reduced domestic and international trade, which negatively affects the economy. Also, natural disasters affect ports and transportation, which leads to a reduction in the number of imports and exports thus affecting trade. Natural disasters disrupt economic activities in the short term due to the damages they cause. Loss of labour which includes human deaths, disabilities, or injuries; and loss of capital which includes loss of physical properties (damage to houses, factories, and infrastructure). These losses may result in a further loss of potential labour hours and cause a decrease in the expected production output for example, agricultural or industrial. The loss of potential wages and subsequent decrease in expected output may indirectly impact the economic growth of the country.

Environmental Impacts of Natural Disasters[edit]

The end of a disaster is often just the beginning. Once the storm subsides, the smoke clears, and the dust settles, the recovery process begins. In addition to the billions of dollars in property loss and the deep personal loss that many people endure, there are often unseen environmental impacts that must be mitigated. Hurricanes can be among some of the most devastating natural disasters. Not only do they account for two-thirds of property losses in the U.S., but they also play a major role in the disruption of natural habitats. They greatly upset the natural ecosystem, significantly disrupting coastal native shellfish, fish, insects, bird, and mammal habitats. Pollutants from flooded industrial sites caused hazardous chemicals to enter untreated into project sites, groundwater, and the oceans. Other disasters such as wildfires, floods, and tornadoes can completely defoliate forests and cause other types of structural changes to ecosystems. Wildlife can be killed by the force of the disaster or impacted indirectly through changes in habitat and food availability. Endangered species are especially vulnerable when their habitat is destroyed. Water quality is impacted when sewage treatment facilities flood or debris enters reservoirs and waterways. Beaches move and change shape due to storm surges. Riverbanks erode during flash flood events. Just as a natural disaster can change the landscape of our personal lives as well as aspects of our community, so too can different types of disasters drastically alter the natural environment. The cyclones that occurred in Myanmar in 2008, or the wildfires that spread throughout California in 2009 are examples of how areas of land that detail whole ecosystems can be dramatically damaged or transformed by a single disaster event. The rapid desalination of saltwater oceans caused by melting glaciers could deprive the world of 30 per cent or more of its edible fish supply, and the loss of coral reefs from the same cause would put numerous coastal regions in jeopardy of tidal waves and surges.

Positive Effects of Natural Disasters[edit]

Natural disasters refer to environmental phenomena that are destructive and occur naturally. While most of their effects are negative, some beneficial products accompany them. For farmers and the farming industry, floods help them by providing nutrients to the soil it was lacking. This makes the soil more fertile and increases agricultural production. After a volcanic eruption, the soil becomes rich due to the nutrients from the volcano. Strong winds from hurricanes cause topsoil to be distributed to areas in which it was lacking. They lower the average temperature for a certain amount of time after the storm. Hurricanes can help build up the coastal areas of islands, making the island wider.

Recovery and Emergency Responses to Natural Disasters[edit]

When disasters strike communities, their impact dominates the news. Images and accounts of distress fill TV screens. Disasters are unique events which need careful assessment and recovery steps. The initial search and rescue phases can last for months after the disaster. The time immediately following the event requires a fast response to save lives in imminent danger. Within a few days, that phase has usually passed, and the work turns toward providing support to the survivors. However, in the case of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the search and rescue phase stretched out for several months. While people were trapped in their houses, surrounded by flood water, many either had some access to food and drinking water or had neighbours who shared their emergency supplies. This enabled survivors to sustain themselves for longer before rescuers reached them. Meeting basic needs simply to keep people alive, the emergency relief phase begins in the immediate aftermath of the disastrous event. People need food, water, shelter, and medicines. Emergency relief can go on for a very long time or can end quickly. It depends on the nature of the emergency and the resources at hand. The length of time it takes to recover depends on the magnitude of the disaster, the preparedness of the country, the vulnerability and accessibility of the affected location, and the resources that are immediately or locally available. Infrastructure must be rebuilt; communities must be redeveloped. This can sometimes take years. This can be beneficial to a region as it gets updated or can be overwhelming as the country may not have enough money and resources to make the change take place.


The effects of natural disasters are both short-term including loss of life and damage to property and long-term affecting the economic stability of a region or country. Damage to infrastructure and energy production plants leads to unfavourable consequences on a country’s development. Recovery efforts including reconstruction and rebuilding of property and facilities help reverse the effects of disasters and provide employment for the people affected. Natural disasters sometimes bring beneficial products with them such as agricultural improvements.


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