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Natural Hazards Are Rarely Completely Natural

1480 words - 6 pages

Natural Hazards are Rarely Completely Natural

Throughout the world, natural hazards are a frequent occurrence. They
come in the forms of hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and
floods, to name but a few. On a range of scales they create disaster,
destruction, loss of life and of livelihood. Natural processes have
occurred in the natural environment for millions of years. They are
events that happen naturally, e.g. blizzards and floods. A natural
process only becomes a natural hazard when the risk of human loss is
presented. To put it in context, a flood in an unoccupied valley is a
natural process, whereas a flood in a valley where a village is
situated is a natural hazard. Natural disasters take natural hazards
to the next level. A natural disaster is when a natural hazard results
in extensive loss of life or property. Natural disasters cannot happen
where there are no humans, as a natural disaster in a baron desert
would simply remain a natural process. Therefore a natural hazard
requires human presence simply to exist, meaning that it would not be
a completely natural process.

Let us take the case of the flooding of Boscastle, Cornwall, in early
August of 2004. Boscastle is situated in the channel of a steep
valley, very close to the convergence of two local rivers. An
unusually long period of heavy rain was inflicted upon the valley, due
to the lack of driving wind and the combination of evaporation from
the sea, from both the North and South of the area. The result was an
initial wall of water cascading through the valley, measuring 4.5
meters, and rise in the discharge of the valley's stream of
approximately 2.4 meters. This was a flash flood on an extreme scale.
Had the valley been unoccupied, it would have remained a natural
process. However, as the village of Boscastle is situated in the
valley, it became a natural hazard. Extensive damage was inflicted
upon the properties in the village, and human life was put to risk,
although thankfully none was lost. A bakery owner spoke of his losses:
"There's bits of trees and wood and God knows what in here that
doesn't belong. The walls are gone, the bread rack is smashed to
pieces, there are electric wires everywhere…". It could be said that
the paved surfaces of the village's streets added to the surface
runoff into the stream and worsened the flooding situation. This
cannot alone be blamed for the events, but it may have added to the
fact that it was not an entirely natural occurrence. The flooding of
Boscastle quickly escalated from a natural process to a natural
hazard.

It is not debatable that hurricanes cannot be generated, or fought, by
humans. Hurricane Charley hit the coast of Florida on Sunday, August
the 13th 2004. It was the most devastating hurricane to hit the area
since 1921. It came from the...

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