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Asia’s Deadliest Disasters: How to survive

Following the recent earthquake in Nepal, peoplle may be asking themselves, "How would I fare if a natural disaster hit my home?" For those living in Asia, Pacific Prime provides a breakdown of the region's most dangerous natural disasters, and provides tips on how to survive them should the unexpected occur. Read on to find out more.

Posted on May 12, 2015 by Travis Jones

Since the dawn of recorded history, there has been records of terrible, world-changing catastrophes, and even before that, tales of such events were passed down from generation to generation as legendary tragedies that were assumed to be punishments from the heavens. Of course, with modern science, we now know much more about the world around us and what the real causes of the world’s worst disasters are. Armed with this knowledge, developed nations around the world have been able to put infrastructure in place to minimize casualties from disasters like typhoons and floods. However, as we saw with the recent earthquakes in Nepal, there are still disasters that are impossible to fully prepared for. What’s more, sudden disasters such as earthquakes and resulting tsunamis are especially destructive to countries that lack the development and infrastructure to reduce the impact of natural disasters, nor recover from them efficiently. Here, Pacific Prime takes a look at the deadliest natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region, and provides tips on how best individuals can survive and recover.

 

Earthquakes
The worst Asian earthquake on record, and, in fact, the deadliest quake the world has ever seen, dates all the way back to the 1556 A.D., when 830,000 people (60% of the area’s population at the time) died following the Shaanxi Earthquake in Central China. In the 20th century, China also saw devastation as earthquakes in 1920 and 1976 each killed over 200,000 people. During the century, another quake in Japan was responsible for over 140,000 deaths.

More recently, the region has seen numerous quakes occurring throughout it. Since 2004 earthquakes have been reported in China, Nepal, Indonesia, India, the Philippines, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan and more. The worst of these include the 2008 Earthquake in Sichuan, China that killed over 87,000 people, and the 2004 earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia that led to over 227,000 fatalities. Needless to say, almost anywhere you go in Asia, it’s a good idea to be well versed in how to survive an earthquake.

Before a quake ever starts, talk with your family and agree on a spot where everyone is to meet should an emergency occur. Also, take the time to educate each member of the steps to take in the event of an earthquake.

While an earthquake is taking place, the most important thing to do is protect yourself from falling objects. If you are indoors, try to find cover under a sturdy desk or table, or in the absence of these, get to a doorway or interior wall with nothing above it. If you are outside, avoid things that could possibly fall or topple over. Stay away from buildings, trees, power lines and the like. This is also true if you are driving. Slow down smoothly, pull over, and remain in your vehicle, making sure that nothing is likely to fall onto it.

After the quake is over, one essential element in surviving a disaster that every home should be in possession of is a well stocked emergency kit. This includes a store of canned food, a can opener and plenty of bottled water, but also should include a first aid kit, flashlights with spare batteries, waterproof matches, a fire extinguisher, a signal whistle and any required medications. Also, since utilities can be damaged and become hazardous following an earthquake, if possible, shut off your home’s gas, electricity and water until a full damage assessment can be completed. Tools for doing this should also be in your emergency kit.

 

Floods

Of the worst disasters ever to occur during recorded history, and indeed the most fatal would be an extended period of drought and famine that struck Northern China in the 19th century. However, in the past 100 years, it is actually the opposite of a lack of water that has resulted in the most deaths.

The worst flood to ever affect Asia occurred in 1931 in Central China. Directly following a 3 year drought, massive amounts of rain could not be absorbed by the dry earth below it, and the flooding that followed resulted in the deaths of over 4 million people. These numbers not only include drowning deaths, but also the disease and famine that occurred in the aftermath. More recently, flooding in Thailand, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and China has claimed the lives of over 1,000 people in each country since 2004, with China having the highest death toll of over 6,000. Since the 20th century, flooding has also been responsible for the most economic loss as well; causing damages to the tune of US$359 billion.

In order to give yourself the best chances of surviving a flood you, first and foremost, need to keep an eye on daily weather reports if you will be staying in a flood prone area. Next, be as aware as you can be of the area surrounding you. Know where the high ground is and don't hesitate to head there if a major storm is on the way. In order to protect your home, build barriers around it or at its entrances to stop floodwater from coming in. Use a waterproof sealant around all possible points of entry into the ground floor. Make sure that water heaters, electrical panels and other electronics are raised well above floor level, and have ‘check valves’ installed that can drain water from your home without being easily clogged. As with other natural disasters, having a well prepared emergency kit is imperative for helping yourself and others through a flood.

 

Typhoons

Historically, the worst typhoon (or hurricane) on record occurred in the Asia Pacific region. In 1881, Haiphong Typhoon touched down in Vietnam, killing an estimated 300,000 people. What’s worse is that even more people died afterward due to resulting starvation and disease. Nearly matching Haiphong’s death toll, however, was Coringa, India, which in 1839 also saw a catastrophic cyclone resulting in 300,000 deaths. In the 20th century India had another typhoon resulting in over 40,000 fatalities, China saw numerous storms in 1912, 1922, and 1975 that were each responsible for 50,000 to 100,000 deaths, and Myanmar had a terrible storm in 1991 that resulted in over 140,000 casualties.  

More recently, deadly typhoons have been an issue for countries all over the Asia Pacific region, including the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, India, Myanmar, Taiwan, and many more. The worst of these over the past decade was the 2008 Cyclone Nargis that left over 140,000 people dead or missing in Myanmar. Sadly, for the foreseeable future there does not appear to be any respite in site for the world with regards to typhoons, as scientists predict that global warming will lead to increasing severity of storms.

Should a typhoon ever occur in your area, the number one thing to do is stay away from coastal areas. The storm surge created by the cyclonic winds is likely to batter the coast with waves that can easily wash away anything in their path, creating hazards and drawing items or people into the turbulent seawater nearby. A much better idea is to stay indoors, and away from exposed windows. Beyond this, before a typhoon arrives, gather any loose objects outside your home and bring them in or otherwise secure them. Keep a well stocked emergency kit on hand and either board up windows or put tape on them to minimize possible physical damage to your family should high winds and flying objects shatter them.

 

Tsunamis

Asia has a long history of deadly Tsunamis dating back centuries. In the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries Japan experienced several tsunamis that rank in the top 10 deadliest of all time, with mortality numbers of 15,000 to 30,000 people for each. In 1883 Indonesia experienced a tsunami that killed over 36,000 people, and Taiwan experienced one in 1782 that caused over 40,000 deaths. However, unlike many other natural disasters, with which we see higher numbers of death in bygone eras that featured less technology and infrastructure, the worst tsunami on record occurred relatively recently. On December 26th, 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra Indonesia caused a massive tsunami that lead to estimated death tolls of 230,000-280,000 spread across a number of countries with Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand being the worst hit among them. In addition to the death toll, over 1.5 million people were displaced from their homes. The effects of this tsunami can still be felt today.

Surviving a tsunami can be especially tricky, as they can arrive with barely any warning and cause massive damage. If you hear a tsunami warning or detect signs of a tsunami, such as shaking ground from an earthquake-at-sea, unusual sea level fluctuations, a loud ocean roar, or abnormally large waves, evacuate immediately and head inland, towards high ground. Be sure to avoid valleys, and do not return immediately to low land, as more than one tsunami wave is likely to occur over a period of hours or even an entire day, and waves can last for up to 30 minutes each.

Once you are aware that you are in a tsunami zone, educate yourself on evacuation routes from your home, workplace, school or other places you regularly travel to, and practice them so that you do not forget. If you cannot reach a safe spot on foot within 15 minutes, you may want to think about relocating, as evacuating safely in the event of tsunami may not be possible. Keep a mobile emergency kit on hand, as you will not be able to stay where you are if you are in a tsunami zone.

 

Insurance

When it comes to protection and recovery after a natural disaster, having homeowner’s insurance that protects your belongings is always a good idea. Just be sure to check your policies for which disasters are included and excluded so that you can purchase additional coverage if needed, so that your policy is as comprehensive as possible. However, for the most part, things can be replaced. When it comes to protecting what truly matters most, having high quality International Health Insurance is a must for getting your family the medical attention they need as quickly as possible should they need it.

Comprehensive International Health Insurance plans, like those available through Pacific Prime, not only allow you worry-free access to any high quality medical facility of your choosing, they travel with you. While some health insurance plans will only provide benefits in your home country, international health insurance plans will cover you no matter where in the world you find yourself. This is especially helpful when travelling in a foreign land with which you are unfamiliar. Traversing a strange country’s healthcare system is just not something you should have to worry about should disaster strike.

What’s more, International Health Insurance plans generally include a benefit for Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation. This means that if you need medical assistance in a place that is ill-equipped to handle your medical emergency, your policy will provide you the means to get to the nearest medical facility that can address your needs, or even send you to your home country.

Preparedness and knowledge are key to being ready for, and surviving a natural disaster. After it’s over, however, recovery can be a long and painstaking process. The one thing that shouldn’t be, though, is having your family’s medical needs tended to quickly and efficiently. For those that have questions on how to make sure their family is prepared for the worst,contact the friendly and knowledgeable agents at Pacific Prime. As an insurance intermediary, they can compare plans from the world’s best insurers to find the perfect fit for you.

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