Thursday, 4 August 2011
A natural disaster is a disaster caused by nature, such as floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches, lahars (volcanic mudslides), landslides, sinkholes, blizzards, drought, hailstorms, heat waves, hurricanes, tropical storms, typhoons, Ice Ages, tornadoes, and wildfires. Epidemics caused by bacteria or viruses are sometimes considered natural disasters, but sometimes put into a different category. A biological threat such as locusts or toxic fungi could also be considered a natural disaster.
Some disasters are on the edge of natural and non-natural. Famines, the chronic lack of food, may be caused by a combination of natural and human factors. Two space-originating categories of natural disaster, both of which rarely effect humans on the surface, include asteroid impacts and solar flares. Although the risk of asteroid impact in the short term may be low, some scientists argue that in the long term, the likelihood of death by asteroid is similar to that of death by traditional natural disasters such as disease.
The deadliest natural disasters are famines, which claimed 70 million people during the 20th century alone, with 30 million dying during the famine of 1958–61 in China. In the Soviet Union there were several man-made famines that killed millions, blamed on the collectivist policies of Stalin, the leader of the country at the time. Famines have a history of bringing out the worst in people, including atrocities and cannibalism.