Some of the greatest natural disaster clean-up efforts have occurred in more recent times. In reference to calendar events, it is possible that disasters are happening more frequently than in earlier historical times. Devastating losses have created massive earthly change since the beginning of time, yet the intensity, devastation, loss of life and length of clean-up efforts have grown exponentially since the turn of this century.
Loss of life and financial data are the criteria most reviewed in an effort to classify the varying degrees of disaster. In this particular instance, the word “big” is both subjective and objective. Looking at the amount of damage and clean-up costs since the year 2,000 produced these results:
The 5 Most Devastating Disaster Cleanups:
1. The 6.3 earthquake that focused in Christchurch, New Zealand took place on February 22, 2011. Add to that the September 4, 2010 earthquake, the total cost was upwards of $20 billion. Several hundred people died.
2. The 8.9 earthquake on March 23, 2011 off of the Pacific coast of T?hoku, Japan, and the tsunami that followed devastated most of the world in one way or another. The fear of nuclear radiation, both air and water concerned many countries, especially the United States. The factor of economic loss added greatly to the total cost of both events. It is estimated that the dollar figure was well over 300 billion. The death toll was close to 20,000 people.
3. The mudslides in Thailand, occurring in April, 2011 affected more than one million people, both residents and travelers alike. More than 50 inches of rain fell over a 10 day period during a normally dry period of the year. A vast amount of agricultural land was destroyed; some of this land will never recuperate.
4. The USA took an enormous hit from Tropical Storm Irene. It devastated the coastline from South Carolina to Maine. It began on Aug. 28, 2011 and caused more than 40 deaths, while flooding towns as far north as Vermont and northern New York. Damages were in the billions of dollars.
5. Hurricane Sandy hit the U.S. eastern seaboard on October 29, 2012. The cost to the state of New York alone has been $42 billion. That figure does not include the lost revenue to businesses all along Sandy’s pathway. The super-sized, super storm is expected to cost more than the 2005 Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast. New York City has sustained close to $20 billion in damages. Cleanup from this storm is expected to take a great deal of time, with no end in sight.
Who Pays for the Losses?
Of the approximately $350 billion in losses during 2011, only $108 billion was insured loss. The remainder had to be picked up by various charitable organizations and federal and state governments. This means that the taxpayer is bearing the brunt of the cleanup. There are many areas that are still trying to rebuild and do not have enough funding to do so.
2011 is considered “the year of disaster.” Costs rose $130 billion over the 2010 cost of all disasters. When rebuilding in the same areas, everyone runs the risk of yet another crisis in the future. This question possibly needs to be answered; how many times can people really afford to continue living in such vulnerable regions where another flood, earthquake, tsunami, tornado or volcano is likely to unleash its power once again?