Disasters occur without notice. Most disasters are natural such as earthquake, floods, hurricanes, sandstorms, landslides, tsunamis and volcanoes. We have no way of stopping them, but we can learn to deal with the difficult situations that arise due to them.

Tana lives in the suburbs of Mumbai. She narrates how her houses were submerged during the floods in Maharashtra in 2005. ``it rained for days. First the water filled the roads, markets and gardens. Then it slowly crept into our homes. The water level kept rising each day and the whole area got flooded. Household things floated like small boats in a muddy ocean. People left their homes with only their essential belongings. We also did the same. Rescue workers took us to a safe place. There we received food and shelter. Everybody prayed to God to stop the deluge.

Nagma stays in Bhuj in Gujarat. She still remembers the day, way back in 2001, when an earthquake shook her city. `` It was so frightening. I felt the earth move below me. At the same time I saw cracks develop on the walls of the house. Then my mother told me to rush out of the house. She feared that it might crumble any minute. I heard screams all round. People ran about in panic. No place seemed safe. Houses fell down like playing cards. People got buried under the debris and many became homeless.

``By the grace of God our house did not fall. We gave shelter to as many people as we could. We learnt later that our house was built with small sections of bricks. Hence it survived the tremors of the quake.

The intensity of an earthquake is measured on the Richter scale. Earthquakes that measure below 4.0 on the Richter scale do not cause damage. Those above 4.0 can cause loss of life and property. Earthquakes over 6.0 on the Richter scale are major earthquakes.

On May 12, 2008, an earthquake measuring 8 on the Richter scale hit the city of Beichuan in China, and flooded the entire city by creating an enormous quake lake. Jhumroo lives in a village in Jaisalmer which is prone to frequent sandstorms. Just thinking about a sandstorm frightens him. He says, ``It was so scary. The storm hit with great force. Nothing was visible then. Sand was everywhere. The whole house shook and the windows rattled. Trees and telephone poles were uprooted. Old and kutcha houses collapsed. Their parts flew away with the wind. Mother told us not to panic and remain calm. Grandfather said that our house was strong enough to withstand such sandstorms because of its circular shape.

Recent Haiti earthquake situation is very sad.

Rohit cannot forget the horrifying sight when the killer waves of tsunami hit the coastal line of Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu. ``smiles on the people’s faces turned into cries. They began to run here and there. No one could understand from where the massive waves were coming. They just ripped apart everything that came their way’’.

Not all disasters are natural. Some disasters are manmade like fires, epidemics and weak structures of buildings. Others, such as the serial bomb blasts in New Delhi, on September 13, 2008 are planned with the intention to cause suffering and death.

Managing disasters


During disasters like floods, fire, earth quake, landslides, rescue beings at home. Even before external help arrives, people affected by the disasters help each other.

The government and many voluntary organizations send tams of workers trained in rescue operations to disaster-affected areas. These teams join hands wit the local community helpers such as doctors, nurses, social workers and policemen.

Temporary shelters are built for displaced people. Doctors and nurses provide medical aid. They treat the wounded and work to control epidemics. Social workers collect food and cloth from all over the country for the disaster-affected people. The police maintain law and order. Media –persons help in spreading news about the victims and their conditions. They also post advertisements that urge people to donate for victims.

In extreme conditions, the army and Air force organize rescue operations. They clear roads, send medical teams and help to move people to safer places. The air force drops food, water and clothes in the affected areas. Organization like UN helps in providing aid during massive disasters.

Individually, people from all over the world also come forward to help during a disaster. They donate blood while many donate money. Some even reach the disaster affected places to give an extra hand in the rescue operation. Families adopt children who have lost their parents and thus give them a new home.

What you can do

Plan out what should be done in case a disaster strikes. For examples-

If there is a tornado, take shelter in a place without windows. In an earthquake, remember to crouch under some heavy furniture or stand under the doorframe for cover. In case of a fire in the building, leave the building by the stairs. Do not use a lift. If the house is flooded, then climb up to the roof.



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