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According to the U. At a. Tangshan, an industrial city, had a population of about a million people, and the official death toll was a staggering , Many of Tangshan's buildings were completely destroyed, according to that history, and , people got new residences in the six years following the quake.

Why FEMA isn’t prepared for the next major U.S. disaster

As with all historical quakes, precise death tolls for the Antioch earthquake of A. But contemporary chronicler John Malalas wrote at the time that about , people died when the temblor hit the Byzantine city in May of that year. Malalas attributed the disaster to the wrath of God and reported that fires destroyed everything in Antioch that the earthquake itself did not.

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According to a paper in The Medieval History Journal , the death toll was higher than it would have been at other times of the year because the city was full of tourists celebrating Ascension Day. The Coringa cyclone of hit the port city of Coringa on Nov. About 20, ships and vessels were destroyed, along with the lives of an estimated , people. Also vying for the No. That storm is also estimated to have killed about ,00 people. Another storm that wiped out tens of thousands of lives was the Bhola cyclone of Nov. This storm struck what is now Bangladesh then East Pakistan , pushing up a foot storm surge that funneled right over the low terrain bordering the Bay of Bengal, causing widespread flooding.

A report from the National Hurricane Center and the Pakistan Meteorological Department acknowledged the challenge of accurately estimating the death toll, especially due to the influx of seasonal workers who were in the area for the rice harvest. However, most estimates place the loss of life from the Bhola cyclone at , at the low end, ranging up to , The deadliest earthquake in history hit China's Shaanxi province on Jan.

Explanatory Notes | EM-DAT

An important epidemiologic study on the incidence of trauma and the subsequent risk of developing PTSD after various types of traumatic events estimates the risk at about 3. NEHRP-sponsored surveys following recent earthquakes in California found PTSD to be extremely rare among affected populations and not significantly associated with earthquake impacts Seigel et al. Other studies show immense variation, with estimates of post-disaster PTSD ranging from very low to greater than 50 percent.

Such variations could reflect real differences in the traumatic effects of different events, but it is equally likely that they are the result of methodological, measurement, and theoretical differences among investigators. One key debate centers on the clinical significance of post-disaster emotional and mental health problems. Research is clear on the point that it is not unusual for disaster victims to experience a series of problems, such as headaches, problems with sleeping and eating, and heightened levels of concern and anxiety, that can vary in severity and duration Rubonis and Bickman, ; Freedy et al.

Perspectives begin to diverge, however, on the extent to which these and other disaster-induced symptoms constitute mental health problems in the clinical sense.

Inquests after a Disaster

In other words, would disaster victims, presenting their symptoms, be considered candidates for mental health counseling or medication if those symptoms were present in a nondisaster context? Again, as with PTSD, findings differ. While noting that many studies do document a rise in psychological distress following disasters, Shoaf et al.

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  8. They also note that these findings are consistent with research on suicide following the Kobe earthquake, which showed that the suicide rate in the year following that quake was less than the average rate for the previous 10 years Shoaf et al. Yet many researchers and practitioners rightly contend that psychosocial interventions are necessary following disasters, both to address clinically significant symptoms and to prevent more serious psychological sequelae.

    Events such as the Oklahoma City bombing, the Columbine school shootings, and the events of September 11, lead to questions about whether intentional attacks engender psychological reactions that are distinctive and different from those that follow other types of community crisis events. Some studies have suggested that the psychological impacts of terrorist attacks are profound, at least in the short term North et al.

    Again, drawing conclusions about the relative influence of agent characteristics—as opposed to other factors—is difficult because studies vary so much in their timing, research designs, methodological approaches, and procedures for defining disaster victimization. Another set of issues concerns factors associated with risk for poor psychological outcomes. Perilla et al. With respect to differential exposure, factors such as ethnicity and social class can be associated with living in substandard and vulnerable housing, subsequently exposing minorities and poor people to greater losses and disaster-related trauma.

    Regarding differential vulnerability, minorities and the poor, who are more vulnerable to psychosocial stress during nondisaster times, may also have fewer coping resources upon which to draw following disasters. In a comprehensive and rigorous review of research on the psychological sequelae of disasters, Fran H.

    Norris and her colleagues Norris et al.

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    These data sets included a range of different types of surveys on both U. According to their interpretation, which was based on accepted methods for rating indicators of psychological distress, the symptoms reported by as many as 39 percent of those studied reached clinically significant levels. However—and this is an important caveat—they found negative psychological effects to be much more prevalent in disasters occurring outside the United States.

    Generally, symptoms were most severe in the year following disaster events and declined over time. Norris et al. The Loma Prieta and Northridge earthquakes were seen as having relatively few adverse impacts, and Hurricane Hugo and Three Mile Island were classified as moderate in their effects. Hurricane Andrew, the Exxon oil spill, and the Oklahoma City bombing were classified as severe with respect to their psychological impacts.

    As these examples suggest, the researchers found no evidence that natural, technological, and human-induced disasters necessarily differ in their effects. This research review uncovered a number of vulnerability and protective factors that were associated with differential psychological outcomes following disasters. Broadly categorized, those risk factors most consistently shown to be negatively associated with post-disaster psychological well-being include severity of disaster exposure at both the individual and the community levels; being female; being a member of an ethnic minority; low socioeconomic status; experiencing other stressors or chronic stress; having had other mental health problems prior to the disaster; employing inappropriate coping strategies e.

    Overall, these findings are very consistent with perspectives in disaster research that emphasize the relationship between systemically induced vulnerability, negative disaster impacts, lower resilience, and poor recovery outcomes. Recent research situates disasters within the context of other types of stressful events e. At the same time, studies—many conducted under NEHRP auspices—show how social inequality and vulnerability both amplify the stress that results directly from disasters and complicate the recovery process over the longer term.

    For example, Fothergill , , and Enarson and Morrow have documented the ways in which gender is associated both with the likelihood of becoming a disaster victim and with a variety of subsequent post-disaster stressors. Peacock et al. Hurricane Katrina represents a critical test case for theories and research on psychosocial vulnerability and resilience. If, as Norris and her collaborators indicate, Hurricane Andrew resulted in relatively high levels of psychosocial distress, what will researchers find with respect to Katrina?

    For many victims, Katrina appears to contain all of the ingredients necessary to produce negative mental health outcomes: massive, catastrophic impacts; high property losses resulting in financial distress; exposure to traumas such as prolonged physical stress and contact with dead and dying victims; disruption of social networks; massive failures in service delivery systems; continual uncertainty about the future; and residential dislocation on a scale never seen in a U.

    Over time, research will result in important insights regarding the psychosocial dimensions of truly catastrophic disaster events. Household Impacts and Recovery. Within the disaster recovery area, households and household recovery have been studied most often, with a significant proportion of that work focusing on post-earthquake recovery issues.

    Drabek and Key and their collaborators had also examined disaster impacts on families and the household recover process Drabek et al. This study found significant differences in post-disaster psychological well being among Caucasians, Latinos, and African Americans, with minority group members experiencing poorer outcomes.

    Interestingly, differences were seen between Latinos whose preferred language was English and those who preferred to speak Spanish. The latter experienced more overall psychological distress, while the reactions of the former more closely resembled those of their Caucasian counterparts.

    Earthquakes was based on research on the Whittier Narrows and Loma Prieta events Bolin, b.

    Regional presence

    Households have also been the focus of more recent studies on the impacts of Hurricane Andrew Peacock et al. Other NEHRP-sponsored work has focused more specifically on issues that are important for household recovery, such as post-disaster sheltering processes Phillips, , and housing impacts and recovery Comerio, , As Bolin a observes.

    Accordingly, the literature has explored various dimensions of household impacts and recovery, including direct impacts such as those highlighted by Bolin; changes in the quality and cohesiveness of relationships among household members; post-disaster problems such as conflict and domestic violence; stressors that affect households during the recovery process; and coping strategies employed by households, including the use of both formal and informal sources of post-disaster support and recovery aid.

    The literature also points to a number of factors that are associated with differences in short- and longer-term household recovery outcomes. Housing supply is one such factor—as indicated, for example, by housing costs, other real estate market characteristics, and rental vacancy rates Temporary housing options are affected by such factors as the proximity of friends and relatives with whom to stay, although use of this housing option is generally only a short-term strategy. Extended family members may not be able to help if they also are victims Morrow, Such problems may be more prevalent in lower-income groups that have few alternative resources and when most members of an extended family live in the same affected community.

    Availability of temporary and permanent housing generally is limited by their pre-impact supply in and near the impact area. In the U. Even when houses are only moderately damaged, loss of housing functionality may be a problem if there is massive disruption of infrastructure.

    In such cases, tent cities may be necessary if undamaged housing is beyond commuting range e. In the longer term, household recovery is influenced by such factors as household financial resources, the ability to obtain assistance from friends and relatives, insurance coverage, and the mix of housing assistance pro-. Typically, access to and adequacy of recovery resources are inversely related to socioeconomic status. Those with higher incomes are more likely to own their own homes, to be adequately insured, and to have savings and other financial resources on which to draw in order to recover—although disasters can also cause even better-off households to take on additional debt.

    With respect to formal sources of aid, the assistance process generally favors those who are adept at responding to bureaucratic requirements and who are able to invest time and effort to seek out sources of aid. The aid process also favors those living in more conventional, nuclear family living arrangements, as opposed to extended families or multiple households occupying the same dwelling unit Morrow, Recovery may be particularly difficult for single-parent households, especially those headed by women Enarson and Morrow, ; Fothergill, The picture that emerges from research on household recovery is not that of a predictable and stage-like process that is common to all households, but rather of a multiplicity of recovery trajectories that are shaped not only by the physical impacts of disaster but also by axes of stratification that include income, race, and ethnicity, as well as such factors as the availability of and access to different forms of monetary aid, other types of assistance, and informal social support—which are themselves associated with stratification and diversity.

    Disaster severity matters, both because disasters that produce major and widespread impacts can limit recovery options for households and because they tend to be more damaging to the social fabric of the community. Although there is clearly a need for such research, few studies exist that compare household recovery processes and outcomes across communities and disaster events. With NEHRP funding, Frederick Bates and his colleagues carried out what may well be the largest research efforts of this kind: a multicommunity. She shows, for example, that experience with deficiencies in housing programs after the Loma Prieta earthquake influenced the way in which programs were financed and managed in other major disasters, notably Hurricane Andrew.

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    The Guatemala study, designed as a quasi-experiment, included households in 26 communities that were carefully selected to reflect differences in the severity of earthquake impacts, size, population composition, and region of the country. That study focused on a broad spectrum of topics, including changes over time in household composition and characteristics; household economic activity; housing characteristics and standards of living; household experiences with relief and reconstruction assistance; and fertility, health, and nutrition.

    Never replicated for any other type of disaster, the study provided detailed information on these topics, focusing in particular on how different forms of aid provision either facilitated or hampered household recovery for detailed discussions, see Bates, ; Hoover and Bates, ; Bates et al. The second study carried out by Bates and his colleagues extended methods developed to assess household recovery following the Guatemala earthquake to measure household recovery in disaster-stricken communities in six different countries.

    The tool used to measure disaster impacts and household recovery across different events and societies, the Domestic Assets Scale, made possible systematic comparisons with respect to one dimension of household recovery—the restoration of household possessions, tools, and technologies Bates and Peacock, , Vulnerability, Resilience, and Household Recovery.

    Like the other aspects of recovery discussed here, what happens to households during and after disasters can be conceptualized in terms of vulnerability and resilience. With respect to vulnerability, social location is associated with the severity of disaster impacts for households. Poverty often forces people to live in substandard or highly vulnerable housing—manufactured housing is one example—leaving them more vulnerable to death, injury, and homelessness.