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Most deadly natural disasters, listed by type

Disaster Location Date Size Casualties Article
Disease England and Scotland Outbreak of Yersinia pestis across the world, killed around 30% of Europe's population Over 1,500,000 deaths in England and Scotland Black Death
Storm Southern England 24 November to 2 December 1703 Hurricane strength storm at 120 mph (193 km/h) Up to 15,000 deaths, ships lost, mass damage to buildings and trees Great Storm of 1703
Tsunami Bristol Channel January 30, 1607 Disputed tsunami of unknown size or European windstorm 2,000 deaths, many settlements swept away, local economy ruined Bristol Channel floods, 1607
Earthquake Essex, South East April 22, 1884 4.7 not the UK's strongest, but most destructive Thousands of homes, around 5 deaths 1884 Colchester earthquake
Tornado London, England 17 October 1091 F4 2 deaths, the early London Bridge, 600 houses, many churches (inc. St Mary-le-Bow) London Tornado of 1091
Avalanche Lewes, England 27 December 1836   Dozens harmed, 8 killed when the UK's worst ever avalanche covered a street on the town's outskirts Lewes avalanche

2. List of questions for discussion:

What is a disaster?
Have you ever been in a disaster?
Do you know anyone who has been in a natural disaster?
How do you think you would react in a disaster?
What are some different kinds of disasters?
What kind of disasters are common in your country?
Are there ways we can prepare ourselves in advance to cope with disasters?
How are businesses affected by disasters?
How are families affected by disasters?
How are the problems solved after a disaster?
Does government help to cope with disasters?
If you had the power to stop a natural disaster that has happened in the past, which would you choose? Why?
What is the difference between natural disasters and manmade disasters?
What are examples of manmade disasters?
What would you do if you knew there would soon be a serious natural disaster and this could be your last day on earth?

3. Read the following news reports (A and B), explain the words in bold and think of a suitable headline for each. Read them again and answer the following questions:

a) What happened?,

b) When /Where did it happen?,

c) What was the cause?,

d) How many were injured or died?,

e) What action is being taken as a result?

A. Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Louisiana on August 29th, 2005. By August 31st, 80% of New Orleans was flooded, and many sections were under 4.5 meters of water. Luckily, 90% of the residents of Louisiana were evacuated before the hurricane hit. However, in the end 1,464 people died. As you know, the most dangerous aspect of a hurricane is not the precipitation that it drops, but the dangerous winds which accompany it. The reason why Hurricane Katrina was so devastating for New Orleans is because the strong winds caused the levees to break, thus flooding the city. In the days following the hurricane, there was some looting in the city, but the military was called in and they halted illegal action very quickly. The state government was heavily criticized after the tragedy for failing to help its citizens. On April 9, 2010, Amnesty International accused the United States government of violating the human rights of hurricane victims by treating them improperly and not giving enough assistance to poor minority communities. What do you think the government is responsible for in such situations?

B. Disaster struck in the town of Redbrooke late last night when the recently built Palmer Court apartment block caught fire and was completely destroyed.

It was just after 2.00 am when many of the resi­dents in the building were woken by the smell of smoke. The Fire Brigade was alerted and arrived promptly to evacuate the building and extinguish the fire.

The fire spread rapidly through the building and the rescue operation had to be carried out quickly in order to save the forty-three residents inside. Twenty-nine people were taken to Redbrooke General Hospital, suffering from smoke inhalation and minor burns, but it is expected that they will be discharged later today. The remaining fourteen people were evacuated safely with no injuries. The Fire Brigade battled with the fire until 7 o'clock this morning but were unable to save the building. The residents will be provided with tem­porary accommodation.

An investigation is being carried out to determine the cause of the fire. At present it is suspected that it was caused by a malfunction in the electrical wiring system, which would explain why so many flats were affected at the same time.


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