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Case Studies on Natural Disasters

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The purpose of learning case studies on natural disasters is to allow you to see real-life examples and statistics of the theories you’ve learned about, such as the Pressure and Release Model (PAR) and the influence of governance on impacts of hazards.

You can view the separate case studies in detail:

Comparing case studies on natural disasters

Statistical Comparison

A brief statistical comparison of the three natural disasters can be seen below:

Japan

Nepal

Indonesia

Hazard Type

Earthquake and Tsunami

Earthquake

Volcanic Eruption

Hazard Magnitude

9 Mw

7.8 Mw

4 VEI

Social Impact Summary

15,899 lives lost, 2,527 missing (now presumed dead), 6,157 injuries and 450,000 losing their homes.

9,000 lives lost, 22,000 people injured. Over 600,000 houses were destroyed.

347 lives were lost, 300,000 people evacuated.

Economic Loss (£)

160 billion

5 billion

450 million

Existing Mitigation

Sea walls, warning systems in the country, urban planning, and buildings built based on hazard maps.

Anonymous data from mobile phone networks for information of the population flow

Seismological Monitoring, evacuation drills, high reliance on indigenous warning signs

2019 Human Development Index (HDI)

0.919

0.602

0.718

Human Development Index and Vulnerability

As you can see in the table, we have identified the Human Development Index (HDI) for each country affected by the mentioned natural disasters. The Human Development Index calculates the development of the country by considering their life expectancy, expected years of schooling for children (at the school entry ages), the average number of years adults have attended school, and the Gross National Income per capita. Therefore the higher the HDI, the better quality of life, health and access to education.

If the HDI of a country is lower, vulnerability is higher. This is because of reduced access to basic necessities and well-built housing, lower education levels, and a lack of knowledge about hazards and available governmental support. It is also more probable that most livelihoods will rely on sectors that are often influenced by natural disasters, such as the agricultural industry.

Nepal and Indonesia have significantly lower HDI compared to Japan, which is also reflected in the level of hazard preparation for the different countries.

Economic impact

The total economic loss caused by the disaster in Japan may seem a lot more than the others. But let’s look at this in terms of GDP.

The economic losses as a percentage of the GDP are approximated to the following:

Japan

Nepal

Indonesia

Economic Loss (£)

160 billion

5 billion

450 million

GDP (£)

3.6 trillion

22 billion

810 million

Economic Loss as Percentage of GDP (%)

0.044

0.28

0.56

Please keep in mind that these statistics are estimates as the GDP has been converted into pounds and is based on 2019 data, but you can now see the different meanings of economic losses.

Governance and natural disasters – case studies

In Impacts of Hazards, you saw that governance influences vulnerability. Below you will see how each government played a part in influencing the impact of the disasters, including their strengths and weaknesses before and after the disasters.

Governance in Nepal

Since the earthquake, changes have been made in the government approach to disaster risk. One new implementation is a bottom-up approach where the people most affected influence policy to increase engagement and inform decisions. An example is that local governments in the Gohrka district took the initiative to develop multi-hazard disaster risk reduction plans. Local leaders have been focusing on reducing disaster risks.

A significant difficulty for Nepal is instability due to conflict between Maoist rebels and the government. Additionally, due to no agreements on the federal structure or elected local governments in the past decades, a progression in development is difficult. The country is also dealing with socio-economic inequality and marginalisation of ethnic groups, caused by Hindu elites uniting Nepalese tribal homelands in one political and administrative state. After the earthquakes, sectors that only benefit a small group of people (such as Kathmandu Valley) have been the focus of rebuilding. This further increases the countries inequality.

Governance in Japan

Japan is widely known to be one of the most prepared countries against tsunamis and earthquakes as they experience earthquakes with magnitudes 6.5 and above almost every year. The government has invested significantly in mitigation strategies such as breakwaters, warning systems, automatically stopping trains, assembly lines, and evacuation drills.

Despite having a system that provides information about wind and radiation, the government did not pass this on to citizens after the nuclear incident following the 2011 tsunami. This reduced people’s trust in the government to under 20% in 2012 (1). 100,000 were still living in temporary homes by 2014 whilst £22 million of funding for infrastructure recovery was still unspent. The loss of trust can influence the vulnerability of future disasters.

Governance in Indonesia

Indonesia is currently an evolving economy which means that the poverty rate of the country has decreased. The country’s poverty rate decreased from 24% in 1998 to 11.3% in 2014. As you’ve previously learnt, as people’s income increases, so do their resilience. This is promising; however, the fast rate of change can mean that some people are still at risk of falling back into poverty due to a disaster.

National leaders and governments have promoted nationalism in the past. This created a country with united cultural values, making it difficult to focus on development instead of regional priorities. Many communities rely on their traditional warning signs of volcanic eruptions such as ash plumes, movement of monkeys and other animals down the volcano, small earthquakes and lightning storms from the ash. Additionally, if their traditional or community leaders are opposed to evacuation, they are likely to be reluctant. This is because they value their spiritual connection to the volcano, and therefore when the traditional signs do not occur, they are not likely to listen to the advice to evacuate based on scientific monitoring.

Other case studies on natural disasters with different levels of development

Generally, the areas most affected by disasters are low and middle-income countries. Between 2008 and 2016, developing countries lost approximately £78 billion in their agricultural sectors due to damage to crops and livestock. Asia was the most affected economically by natural disasters as they lost approximately £35 billion. Africa had an economic loss of £22 billion, Latin America and the Caribbean had a loss of £21 billion.

The good news is that there has been a decline in mortality from natural disasters in recent years significantly due to building codes, education and warning systems. For instance, an effective tsunami warning system was implemented after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. This was able to provide warning signals during the Banda Aceh earthquake which saved many lives.

Case Studies on Natural Disasters - Key takeaways

  • The Human Development Index calculates a country’s development by considering life expectancy, expected years of schooling for children (at the school entry ages), the average number of years adults have attended school and the Gross National Income per capita.
  • The lower the HDI of a country, the higher the vulnerability.
  • Observing the economic losses from natural disasters as a percentage of the GDP allows for a different perspective on the impact.
  • The areas most affected by disasters are low and middle-income countries.

Sources

1: OECD data https://data.oecd.org/gga/trust-in-government.htm

Final Case Studies on Natural Disasters Quiz

Question

When did the Gorkha earthquake occur?

Show answer

Answer

The Gorkha earthquake occurred on 25 April 2015 at 11:56am (local time).

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Question

Which areas were affected by the Gorkha earthquake?

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Answer

The area most affected by the Gorkha earthquake was the Gorkha District, west of Kathmandu in Nepal. The earthquake was also felt in the central and eastern parts of Nepal, in areas around the Ganges River in northern parts of India, in the northwest of Bangladesh, in southern areas of the Plateau of Tibet, and in western Bhutan.

Show question

Question

What was the magnitude of the Gorkha earthquake?


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Answer

The Gorkha earthquake was 7.8Mw.

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Question

Where was the epicentre of the Gorkha earthquake?


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Answer

The epicentre of the Gorkha earthquake was located 77km northwest of Kathmandu.

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Question

How deep was the focus of the Gorkha earthquake?


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Answer

The focus of the Gorkha earthquake was approximately 15km underground.

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Question

What caused the Gorkha earthquake? 

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Answer

The Gorkha earthquake was caused due to the convergent plate margin between the Eurasian and the Indian tectonic plates. Nepal is located on top of the plate margin, making it prone to earthquakes. The collision between the two plates causes pressure to build up, which is eventually released.

Show question

Question

Which characteristic of the geological structure magnifies the earthquakes in Nepal?

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Answer

The geological structure of the valleys in Nepal, which magnifies the impact of earthquakes, is the soft sediment from previous lakes.

Show question

Question

What were the environmental impacts of the Gorkha earthquake?


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Answer

The following is a list of the environmental impacts of the Gorkha earthquake:

  • Landslides and avalanches destroyed forests and farmlands.

  • Carcasses, debris from buildings, and hazardous waste from laboratories and industries led to the contamination of water sources. 

  • Landslides increased the risk of flooding (due to increased sediment in rivers).

Show question

Question

What are the social impacts of the Gorkha earthquake?


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Answer

The following is a list of the social impacts of the Gorkha earthquake:

  • Approximately 9000 people lost their lives, and almost 22,000 people were injured. 

  • Damage to natural resources affected the livelihood of thousands. 

  • Over 600,000 houses were destroyed. 

  • There was a marked increase in mental health problems. 

Show question

Question

What were the economic impacts of the Gorkha earthquake?


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Answer

The following is a list of the economic impacts of the Gorkha earthquake:

  • Damage to housing and significant negative effects on livelihood, health, education, and the environment created a loss of £5 billion.

  • There was a loss of productivity (number of working years lost) due to the number of lives lost. The cost of lost productivity was estimated at £350 million.

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Question

Why does Nepal have a high risk of experiencing natural hazards?


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Answer

Nepal is one of the least developed countries globally and has one of the lowest standards of living. This makes the country particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. Nepal is also located on top of the plate margin, making it prone to earthquakes.

Show question

Question

What mitigation strategies existed before the Gorkha earthquake?


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Answer

These mitigation strategies existed before the Gorkha earthquake happened:

  • Standards for safeguarding infrastructure were implemented.
  • The National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal (NSET) was founded in 1993. NSET’s role is to educate communities about earthquake safety and risk management

Show question

Question

What were the responses (mitigation strategies) to the Gorkha earthquake?

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Answer

These were the responses to the Gorkha earthquake:

  • Reconstructing buildings and systems. This is to reduce possible damage from future earthquakes. 

  • Optimising short-term aid. For example, having open spaces is important for humanitarian relief organisations, but many of these open spaces are at risk due to urbanisation. As a result, organisations are working on protecting these spaces.

Show question

Question

What was the magnitude of the Tohoku Earthquake in 2010?

Show answer

Answer

The magnitude of the Tohoku Earthquake in 2010 was 9 Mw.

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Question

What was the magnitude of the Gorkha Earthquake in 2015?

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Answer

The magnitude of the Gorkha Earthquake in 2015 was 7.8 Mw.

Show question

Question

What was the magnitude of the Mount Merapi Eruption in 2010?


Show answer

Answer

The magnitude of the Mount Merapi Eruption in 2010 was 4 VEI.

Show question

Question

What were some of the social impacts of the Tohoku Earthquake in 2010?


Show answer

Answer

Some of the social impacts of the Tohoku Earthquake in 2010 include 15,899 lives lost, 2,527 missing (now presumed dead), 6,157 injuries and 450,000 losing their homes.

Show question

Question

What were some of the social impacts of the Gorkha Earthquake in 2015?


Show answer

Answer

Some of the social impacts from the Gorkha Earthquake in 2015 include 9,000 lives lost, 22,000 people injured and over 600,000 houses destroyed.

Show question

Question

What were some of the social impacts of Mount Merapi Eruption in 2010?


Show answer

Answer

Some of the social impacts from the Mount Merapi Eruption in 2019 included 347 lives lost and 300,000 people evacuating.

Show question

Question

What were the existing mitigation strategies before the disaster in Japan? 


Show answer

Answer

The existing mitigation strategies before the disaster in Japan included sea walls, warning systems in the country, urban planning and building built based on hazard, hazard maps.

Show question

Question

What were the existing mitigation strategies before the disaster in Nepal? 


Show answer

Answer

The existing mitigation strategies before the disaster in Nepal included anonymous data from mobile phone networks for information on the population flow.

Show question

Question

What were the existing mitigation strategies before the disaster in Indonesia? 


Show answer

Answer

The existing mitigation strategies before the disaster in Indonesia included seismological monitoring, evacuation drills and high reliance on indigenous warning signs.

Show question

Question

What was Japan’s Human Development Index (HDI) in 2019?


Show answer

Answer

Japan’s Human Development Index (HDI) was 0.919 in 2019.

Show question

Question

What was Nepal’s Human Development Index (HDI) in 2019?

Show answer

Answer

Nepal’s Human Development Index (HDI) was 0.602  in 2019.

Show question

Question

What was Indonesia’s Human Development Index (HDI) in 2019?


Show answer

Answer

Indonesia’s Human Development Index (HDI) was 0.718 in 2019.

Show question

Question

What are some of the strengths of Nepal’s governance?


Show answer

Answer

The strength of Nepal’s governance is that the earthquake changes have been made in the government approach to disaster risk by implementing a bottom-up approach where the people most affected have an influence in the policy to increase engagement and informed decisions. An example is that local governments in the Gohrka district took the initiative to develop their own multi-hazard disaster risk reduction plans and local leaders have been focusing on prioritising reducing disaster risks.

Show question

Question

What are some of the difficulties for Nepal’s governance?


Show answer

Answer

A significant difficulty for Nepal is the instability due to conflict between Maoist rebels and the government. Due to no agreements on the federal structure or elected local governments in the past decades, a progression in development is difficult.

The country is also dealing with socio-economic inequality and marginalisation of ethnic groups, caused by the process of Hindu elites uniting Nepalese tribal homelands in one political and administrative state. 

After the earthquakes, sectors that only benefit a small group of people have been the focus of rebuilding e.g. Kathmandu Valley which further increases the countries inequality.  

Show question

Question

What are some of the strengths of Japan’s governance?


Show answer

Answer

The strengths of Japan’s governance include their significant investment in mitigation strategies for earthquakes and tsunamis such as building breakwaters, warning systems, automatically stopping of trains and assembly lines and education of evacuation drills.

Show question

Question

What are some of the difficulties for Japan’s governance?


Show answer

Answer

One difficulty for Japan’s governance is the lack citizen’s lack of trust, partly due to the lack of information to the citizens from the government in regards to the nuclear accident due to the tsunami despite their system which provides information about the wind and radiation.

Show question

Question

What are some of the strengths of Indonesia’s governance?


Show answer

Answer

Indonesia is currently an evolving economy which means that the poverty rate of the country has decreased. The country’s poverty rate decreased from 24% in 1998 to 11.3% in 2014. As you’ve previously learnt, as people’s income increases, so do their resilience. This is promising, however, the fast rate of change can mean that some people are still at risk of falling back into poverty due to a disaster.

Show question

Question

What are some of the difficulties for Indonesia’s governance?


Show answer

Answer

Difficulties for Indonesia’s governance include past national leaders and governments that promoted nationalism which created a country with united cultural values, which sometimes makes it difficult to focus on development instead of regional priorities. Many communities rely on their traditional warning signs of volcanic eruptions such as ash plumes, movement of monkeys and other animals down the volcano, small earthquakes and lightning storms from the ash. Additionally, if their traditional or community leaders are opposed to evacuation, then they are likely to be reluctant against evacuating. This is because they value their spiritual connection to the volcano, and therefore when the traditional signs do not occur, they are not likely to listen to the advice to evacuate based on scientific monitoring.

Show question

Question

What areas are most affected by natural disasters?


Show answer

Answer

Generally, the areas most affected by disasters are the low and middle-income countries. Within the years between 2008 and 2016, approximately £78 billion was lost in the agricultural sector of developing countries due to damage to crops and livestock. Also within those 10 years, Asia was the most economically affected by natural disasters as they lost approximately £35 billion. Africa had an economic loss of £22 billion, Latin America and the Caribbean had a loss of  £21.

Show question

Question

What are the positive changes in terms of natural disasters?


Show answer

Answer

A positive change in terms of natural disasters is the decline in mortality from natural disasters in recent years significantly due to building codes, education and warning systems. For instance, an effective tsunami warning system was implemented after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. This was able to provide warning signals during the Banda Aceh earthquake which saved many lives.

Show question

Question

When in 2010 did Mount Merapi begin and stop erupting?

Show answer

Answer

Mount Merapi began erupting on 25 October 2010 and lasted until 30 November 2010.

Show question

Question

What was the Volcanic Explosivity Index of the Mount Merapi eruption in 2010?

Show answer

Answer

Mount Merapi erupted in 2010 with a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) of 4.

Show question

Question

Where is Mount Merapi located?


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Answer

The volcano is located on the island of Java, Indonesia. It lies on the destructive plate margin between the Indo-Australian plate and the Eurasian plate.

Show question

Question

What did the eruptions release?

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Answer

The eruptions released ash plumes, lahar, pyroclastic flows, and sulphur dioxide.

Show question

Question

What caused the Mount Merapi eruption in 2010? 


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Answer

The Mount Merapi eruption in 2010 was caused by the subduction of the Indo-Australian plate underneath the Eurasian plate. The volcano lies on a destructive plate margin at a subduction zone, which is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Mount Merapi eruption happened when the denser plate edge, the Indo-Australian plate, sunk (i.e., subducted) beneath the less dense plate edge, the Eurasian plate. When this happens, the denser plate’s movement causes an increase in the temperature and pressure, which ultimately leads to the release of water from the rocks. This results in a decrease in the melting point of the rock above and magma rising to the surface, causing eruptions.

Show question

Question

What were the environmental impacts caused by ash plumes?


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Answer

Ash plumes had the following environmental impacts:

  • Volcanic ash in the atmosphere can increase the greenhouse effect by reflecting sunlight onto the earth.
  • 200 hectares of forest were damaged. 
  • A positive impact of the release of ash plumes is the fertilisation of soil, which can benefit the farmers in the affected area.


Show question

Question

What were the environmental impacts caused by lahars and pyroclastic flows?


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Answer

The lahars and pyroclastic flows damaged rice fields, farms, infrastructure, rivers, and soil. 

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Question

What were the environmental impacts caused by eruptions of sulfur dioxide?


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Answer

Sulphur dioxide from eruptions can cause a reduction in temperatures and acid rain.

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Question

What impact did the Mount Merapi eruption have on the health of people?


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Answer

Many people at the refugee shelters suffered from headaches, acute respiratory infection, and hypertension. This was due to erupted sulphur dioxide and other diseases from unhygienic public toilets.

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Question

What impact did the Mount Merapi eruption have on the livelihood of people?


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Answer

A lot of the refugees were farmers who lost their livelihoods because the ash from the volcanic eruption caused damage to crops.

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Question

What impact did the Mount Merapi eruption have on the psychology of people?


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Answer

A survey was conducted two years after the disaster to determine the psychological distress of those affected in Cangkringan and Pakem. It demonstrated that those living in the Cangkringan district experienced the most distress in relation to the environmental impact of the eruption.

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Question

What overall economic impact did the Mount Merapi eruption have?


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Answer

The total economic impact from the Mount Merapi eruption in 2010 was estimated at £450 million. This was mainly due to the impact on farming, tourism, and manufacturing.

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Question

What economic impacts did the Mount Merapi eruption in 2010 have on agriculture?


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Answer

These were some of the economic impacts of the Mount Merapi eruption in 2010:

  • Many farmers lost their livelihoods due to the ash from the eruption. 
  • There was significant damage to rice, fruits, and vegetables, and as a result, the economic loss from agriculture was estimated at £13 million.

Show question

Question

What impact did the Mount Merapi eruption have on tourism and flights?


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Answer

The number of tourists in 2010 dropped by approximately 30 percent for domestic tourists and 70 percent for international tourists. Around 2500 flights were cancelled for safety reasons. 

Show question

Question

What mitigation strategies existed before the Mount Merapi eruption in 2010?


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Answer

The main mitigation strategies aimed at reducing the potential impact of volcanic eruptions have largely relied on monitoring and warning. Changes in the dome and earthquakes at the beginning of the year (2010) suggested that the volcano would erupt. Evacuation drills were implemented and temporary shelters were prepared. 

Show question

Question

After the Mount Merapi eruption in 2010, what new mitigation strategies were implemented?

Show answer

Answer

New mitigation strategies after the Mount Merapi eruption include:

  • More awareness and training for evacuation.
  • Relocation of 2500 families to safer areas.
  • Enhanced warning systems including handheld radios and governmental monitoring centres providing a main source of information. 
  • Improved infrastructure for easier evacuation.

Show question

Question

When did the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami occur?

Show answer

Answer

The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami occurred on 11 March 2011. The shaking began at 2:46pm local time and lasted about six minutes. This caused a tsunami within 30 minutes.

Show question

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