A disaster is described as a sudden, adverse event that disturbs the operating of a community or society and causes human, economic and environmental losses. It usually surpasses the community’s or society’s capacity to adapt utilizing its own assets. Even though its frequently caused by nature, disasters can have human starting points.
The Caribbean region has experienced a history of natural disasters associated with such hazards as hurricanes, floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, landslides and drought. The occurrence of any of these cataclysmic events have social and economic impacts on the Caribbean as well as physical and physiological effects on persons. The term ‘Caribbean region’ as used in this essay refers to the Caribbean Sea, its islands inclusive of the West Indies and the surrounding coasts (see figure 1).
Hurricanes and earthquakes are amongst the most frequent meteorological hazard in the Caribbean based on research. Hurricanes and tropical cyclones affect certain areas at separate times during the season, however, the official hurricane season extends from June 1st to November 30th. Hurricanes can be described as “when the maximum sustained winds of a tropical storm reach seventy-four miles per hour (74 mph)” according to the National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration.
The mechanics of the hurricane are based on the circulation of air around a central warm-core through a combination of the Coriolis effect and friction acting on the pressure gradient force of air moving into the storm (Miller, 1967). Hurricanes consist of very strong winds and a lot rain, which can last from a few hours to a few days.
The common effects of hurricanes can be short term and long term which include: high winds, tidal flooding and heavy rainfalls which can lead to flooding and landslides. Each of these result in both social and economic impacts. The social trauma perpetrated on the general population usually have a short-term effect on the communities’ drive and may take a short period before standardization can occur. Social effects include: disturbance of social exercises (schools, work place), food poisoning due to contaminated foods, death toll due to fallen objects and relocation of families due to lost of homes which may influence family life.
Its principle financial effect is retard growth and advancement due to damage infrastructure, loss of employment, capital and even raw materials. This can cost nations millions of dollars to recover to normalcy due to rebuilding of infrastructure, supporting those affected by diseases and property loss and the implementation of measures to anticipate future monetary misfortune.
Earthquake is an intense shaking of the Earth’s surface resulting due to the sudden release of energy in the Earth’s crust, that creates seismic waves. The impacts of earthquakes depend on several factors such as the distance from the epicentre, magnitude of the earthquake, population density, geological conditions and level of preparedness. History records display earthquakes continues to have devasting impact on the Caribbean region. Earthquakes can also trigger landslides and volcanic activities.
Most natural disasters can be predicted due to technological advances resulting in warning being issued, however, earthquakes occur without forewarning which can be hazardous and the most destructive to date. The effects of earthquakes can be catastrophic; however, the severity of the social and economic impacts depends on the factors mentioned prior. The effects are not limited to but include ground rupture, soil liquefaction and even fire which can be caused by damage utility lines such as gas and electrical powerlines.