By Duncan Mlanjira
The Cyclone Idai that devastated Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe leaving 1,300 people killed in March 2019, has been classified as one of the 10 disasters that changed the world.
In Malawi alone, the heavy rains and flooding that was linked to the Cyclone Idai killed 60 people, displaced nearly 87,000 people and affected around 870,000 persons.
According to direct relief.org, the cyclone, rated as Category 3 storm necessitated life-saving humanitarian interventions in 15 affected districts in all three countries.
It destroyed infrastructure including health facilities while agricultural land was flooded with salty water.
“While all three countries struggle with economic and other issues, severe tropical storms — the kind that regularly plague the Caribbean — have not historically been a problem in southern Africa.
“Idai made it clear that, as the climate changes, sub-Saharan African countries will have to be aware of tropical storms and have measures in place to protect against them,” said the website.
Looking back at a decade in which superstorms, wildfires, disease outbreaks, and monster earthquakes have taken unimaginable tolls all over the planet, the website suggests that it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the scope of the problem.
“But learning the lessons of every disaster, every time, is important,” says the website.
Another disaster mentioned is the magnitude 7.0 Haiti earthquake in 2010 that left more than 220,000 people killed, which was two percent or more of the population and one and a half million were displaced.
The third one was the Tohoku earthquake and Tsunami as well as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.
A magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered a tsunami wave that rose 133 feet at its highest and traveled as far as six miles inland — much larger and more powerful than expected.
“That alone would have been cataclysmic enough, but the event also triggered a technological disaster on the scale of the infamous 1986 Chernobyl crisis but a series of nuclear meltdowns and a large-scale release of radioactive material from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant added more agony.
“Although estimates of the death toll vary, as many as 20,000 people were killed, in a country whose wealth and well-developed infrastructure made that number feel impossible.”
Hurricane Sandy that started in the Caribbean in 2010 is another disaster mentioned causing widespread havoc through the Caribbean before crashing into the United States’ eastern seaboard, taking large swathes of New Jersey and New York, including New York City, offline.
“People were choked off from power and heat for days, with many trapped in high-rise buildings, unable to evacuate or procure supplies.
“Over 100 people died in the United States alone, many from exposure or related conditions.
“The event challenged the sense of security felt by many Americans, and frenzy of media attention on seemingly invincible New York City — itself one of the media centers of the world — was unprecedented,” the website said.
The Typhoon Haryana (2013) crashed into the Philippines with wind speeds hovering near 200 miles per hour — at the time, the strongest cyclone ever.
“The storm surge — rising above 20 feet in some areas — shocked the world. It swept through densely populated areas, including the major city of Tacloban, leaving devastation in its wake, killing approximately 7,000 people and displaced more than 4 million.”
West Africa Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016 is another disaster that changed the world and is rated as the deadliest Ebola outbreak in recorded history.
Direct Relief says the outbreak began in Guinea and quickly spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia and striking heavily in urban centers that left over 11,000 people — approximately 40% of those who fell ill over the course of two years.
“The world was horrified by the deadliness and scope of the outbreak, and developed countries were concerned for their own safety as Ebola cases even reached the United States and Europe.”
Nepal magnitude 7.8 earthquake in 2015 is also another disaster mentioned that destroyed homes throughout much of the country and toppled tall buildings in Kathmandu, the capital.
Hurricane Harvey (2017) left tens of thousands of people displaced and 88 people dead while Hurricane Maria (2017) in Puerto Rico is another in the top 10.
Global wildfires in 2019 in both the Amazon and Indonesia, sickening hundreds of thousands and destroying treasured forest and rainforest lands.
“The blazes pitted palm oil farmers and beef ranchers against the international community, raising the question of how to meet individual needs as the world works to fight climate change and conserve valuable spaces.
“And months after the Camp Fire killed 85 people in California and sent shock waves through through the United States, a spate of wildfires erupted across the state, displacing hundreds of thousands and threatening the future of large-scale climate-fueled blazes,” said Direct Relief.