Natural Disasters Are More Deadly Than Terrorism
Smith, Joan, The Independent (London, England)
When I was in Yogyakarta last year, not long after the tsunami devastated north-west Indonesia, I couldn't help keeping a wary eye on the nearby volcano. Heading out of the city to see the magnificent seventh-century Buddhist temple at Borobudur, I dutifully made notes about the various occasions Mount Merapi had erupted and wondered how hundreds of thousands of people could live next to it so calmly. Last weekend, some of them had reason to be grateful to Merapi, which has been sending menacing signals for weeks, forcing the Indonesian government to start preparing for an emergency.
What happened on Saturday was not the expected eruption but an earthquake, killing around 5,000 people and injuring 20,000' estimates are still rising and the UN has warned that the task faced by relief agencies is enormous. The disaster and the volcano's current activity are not directly related, but they are a reminder of how perilous life is in this and many other parts of the world. Two and a half years ago, more than 26,000 people died when an earthquake hit the ancient Iranian city of Bam, and that tragedy was dwarfed by the death toll in the Asian tsunami and last year's earthquake in Pakistan.
The number of dead and injured in these natural disasters has run into several hundreds of thousands in a period of less than three years. Last weekend's death toll in Java alone exceeds the number of people killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and has left another 200,000 homeless. Indonesia is no stranger to terrorism, having suffered two dreadful bombings in its premier holiday destination, Bali, and others in the capital city, Jakarta. The damage done to the country's tourist industry by terrorism is incalculable, yet the biggest threat people face is from shifting tectonic plates, not terrorist bombs.
This is true in many parts of the world, so why are governments pouring so much energy and resources into what is actually the lesser of the two threats? I am not seeking to minimise the horror of the terrorist attacks on London, Madrid, Casablanca and other cities, but I am arguing for a sense of proportion' there's no doubt in my mind that world leaders, including Tony Blair, are mesmerised by the so-called war on terror to the point where they are missing a chance to save thousands of lives in natural disasters.
Such events are not preventable but they are to some extent predictable. …