It Is Not The Capacity Of The Storm

Submitted By James-Noble
Words: 982
Pages: 4

‘It’s not the intensity of the storm but the capacity of the nation to deal with it that’s the issue’.
Using case studies from contrasting areas of the world, to what extent do you agree with the above statement?
In my opinion the capacity of the nation to deal with a storm is the issue. Looking back through history it is evident less developed countries suffer to a much greater degree than developed economies when faced with storms, and to illustrate this I will focus on the 2005 Hurricane Katrina in Southern U.S.A and the 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.
Both Katrina and Nargis had a heavy social impact on the areas they affected. Katrina devastated New Orleans, leaving 1464 people dead, and many left homeless and traumatised. Over 1 million people were redistributed from the central Gulf Coast elsewhere across the United States, for example the population of Houston, Texas, increased by more than 35 thousand. In the first quarter of 2006 the New Orleans population had halved, and the State of Louisiana received a population decrease of 4.87%. However Nargis, which was a less intense storm, had a much more sizeable social impact on Myanmar than Katrina did on the U.S. The total death toll has been quoted at 138,000 people, diseases spread leading many more deaths and many children were orphaned. A death toll nearly one hundred times greater than in the U.S coupled with the fact the intensity of the storm was not as great as Katrina suggests it was the capacity of Myanmar that was the issue in this instance. However, the population density in Myanmar and especially the Irrawaddy delta is approximately 5 times higher than that in the post-Katrina city of New Orleans, and if the population density was equal across both areas perhaps the death tolls would be closer. Although, even if the factor of 5 in population density is taken into account the death toll in Myanmar would still be twice that of New Orleans.
Also, those living in New Orleans had a much higher labour mobility than those in Myanmar. This allowed the citizens of New Orleans to relocate with relative ease, a privilege Myanmarese people did not have. The lower labour mobility in Myanmar is a result of primary product dependency and a lack of state provided welfare due to the country only becoming a democratic economy in recent years. However in Myanmar many people living on the Irrawaddy delta are farmers, and after the floods cleared could start farming again for very little cost; however the secondary or tertiary businesses destroyed in New Orleans could not be restarted without a large level of capital investment which the people did not have.
The loss in capital in Louisiana was huge. The state is part of the richest economy in the world, and in particular Louisiana has the greatest concentration of crude oil refineries, natural gas processing plants and petrochemical production facilities in the Western Hemisphere. So, it is not surprising that the total cost of the hurricane totalled over $105 billion U. S Dollars. Although the damage in Myanmar was less, at $10 billion dollars, it is very likely that Katrina was only so costly because of the existing expensive infrastructure associated with a developed economy. So, as far as cost is concerned perhaps it is the intensity of the storm that is the issue, as most cost comes from the initial level of infrastructure and capital in a country. However it could be argued existing infrastructure designed to protect from storm events, the majority of which being expensive and only implemented in advanced economies, such as flood defences would result in a lesser cost.
In contrast, the environmental impact of storm events is often largely out of the control of nations. For example as a result of Cyclone