Recently we have had massive floods in China and Britain, and earthquakes of 6.6 and 6.8 on the Richter scale in Japan. Disasters on this scale are not frequent and the fact that the world is watching three of this magnitude with the massive numbers of people effected, as well as 100's of thousands displaced from their homes, and facing ongoing danger to life and health is unusual.
If the world should suffer a pandemic, regardless of the severity, although the more severe, consequences increase exponentially, nature will not magically cease to toss out the periodic large-scale disaster. Perhaps a statement of the self evident, or perhaps I am too focused on threats and disasters, but major hurricanes/typhoon, earthquakes, floods, blizzards, mudslides, avalanches, and wild fires will continue to occur where they are prone to occur at their normal frequency. The life-critical difference is that while in "normal" times the response may seem, and often is, inadequate, during a pandemic there is likely to be no response, or so delayed as to qualify as none.
Should you be intrigued enough to continue reading please keep in mind the last sentence of the above paragraph as you do so.
USAToday 12 July 2007
Nearly 500,000 people have been evacuated from flood zones along the Huai River in central China, where Reuters says displaced residents and relief workers are fighting an influx of 2 billion rats displaced by the rising waters and a shortage of natural predators.
The wire service says the rats have destroyed more than 6,000 square miles of cropland.
Xinhua says about 2.3 million rats -- weighing some 90 tons -- have been killed in the last two weeks.
"Residents had to beat them to death with clubs and shovels - a single blow killing as many as eight at a time. The message is: urgent measures must be introduced to combat this menace," the Chinese news service reports.
By Christopher Adams, Political Correspondent
Published: July 23 2007 20:40 | Last updated: July 24 2007 00:05
Thousands more people were told to prepare to leave their homes last night as flood-waters across huge tracts of central and southern England rose to their highest in 60 years.
In the worst flooding to affect the UK since the devastating 1947 floods, there were fears that the Thames and the Severn rivers, already more than five metres above normal summer levels, could burst their banks.
Hundreds of thousands of people living in 42 areas at risk of flooding, eight under severe flood warnings, were urged to prepare "do-it-yourself" defences.
In Oxfordshire, people were being moved from their homes and many more residents began piling sandbags in front of their doors and taping up letter boxes.
Drinks suppliers reported "massive" demand for bottled water, with supermarkets selling out fast in the worst affected areas of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.
Supplies of tap water, already cut to 70,000 homes, were due to be cut to up to 350,000 in Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury by yesterday evening after a treatment works was flooded. J Sainsbury, the supermarket group, said it would donate 1m litres of bottled water to residents in the area.
Forty-five thousand people were without electricity and another 200,000 were at risk of losing power.
There were efforts to protect an electricity substation at Walham and last night the Environment Agency said flood levels in the Severn at Gloucester had peaked 2in below the height that could flood the substation and the city centre. Tewkesbury remained cut off, though water levels there were said to be dropping.
"We have not seen flooding of this magnitude before," said the Environment Agency.
Hilary Benn, environment secretary, told the House of Commons that the emergency, which began on Friday when more than 160mm of rain fell in just 24 hours, was "far from over and further flooding is very likely".
Another story is coming to light specific to the British flooding that doesn't bode well for a pandemic even without the exasperation of an additional disaster:
The Times (UK)
July 23, 2007
Food and drinking water shortages, panic buying and the threat of looting have followed the worst flooding to hit England in 60 years.
In the area worst affected by the floodwater from the Severn and the Avon over the weekend, some homes were left without running water and supermarkets reported panic buying of bottled water and food, which is expected to create serious shortages for several days.
Staple food items, including fresh vegetables and salad, are also in short supply because supermarket lorries were unable to make deliveries. Fresh produce grown in the waterlogged Vale of Evesham has also been unable to reach the shops. Kevin Hawkins, the director-general of the British Retail Consortium, gave warning last night that there would be localised shortages but that supplies would be resumed quickly in the next two days.
Even those who escaped the floods are suffering. More than 200,000 people have now been left without drinking water. Severn Trent Water said that homes in the north of Gloucestershire would be left without supplies for the next two days after a big pumping plant near Tewkesbury was overwhelmed by the floods.
Carrie Douch, 26, a mother of two children from Gloucester, said that she had driven more than 15 miles to buy water after the closure of the water treatment plant. "We have been to three supermarkets and water had sold out in all of them," she said. "The queues outside the supermarkets are horrendous. Everyone is desperate to get their hands on some water. We have heard stories of grown men pushing kids out of the way to get to bottles of the stuff. It is disgusting."
By George Nishiyama Mon Jul 16, 6:57 PM ET
KASHIWAZAKI, Japan (Reuters) - More than 10,000 people sheltered in evacuation centers on Tuesday in Japan's northwest after a strong earthquake flattened hundreds of houses, killing at least nine people and injuring more than 900.
As aftershocks continued, rain began to fall, and forecasts for two days of wet weather raised fears of mudslides that could add to the devastation.
Houses collapsed and water, gas and electricity supplies were cut by the 6.8 magnitude quake in Niigata prefecture on Monday, which also caused a small radiation leak and fire at the world's biggest nuclear plant.
Nine elderly people were killed by the tremor, which hit at 10:13 a.m. (0113 GMT) on Monday, police said.
"I am worried about the aftershocks," said 80-year-old Toshiko Kojima, who said she had spent a mostly sleepless night in a crowded elementary school gymnasium in Kashiwazaki.
The quake halted gas service to about 35,000 homes and disrupted the water supply to all of Kashiwazaki, a city with a population of around 95,000 that was hardest hit by the quake.
About 25,000 homes in Niigata prefecture were without electricity, local officials and media said.
The country was rattled late on Monday evening by a deep tremor under the Sea of Japan estimated at magnitude 6.6 to 6.8 that caused buildings in Tokyo to sway, but there were no immediate reports of further damage.
I extend my hope that all remain safe, if not exactly comfortable, as they deal with these disasters, and I remind everyone that while we sit back and contemplate their scope and future implications, there are real individual people and families behind the numbers.