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Lessons from Natural Disasters

Earthquakes continue to hit Nepal. Death toll has crossed 7000. Tens of thousands are struggling without adequate medical aid. Rain, heavy snowfall and other adverse situations create hindrances for rescue activities in remote areas. The earthquakes which measured 7.9 and 7.4 have crushed the poor country which is already suffocating from political instability and financial crisis. In 1934, a much more terrific earthquake had hit Nepal and Bihar where more than 10,000 people were killed. The latest earthquake has brought in equal or bigger damages like the before. Ripples of the earthquake reached five countries-India, Bangladesh, China, Pakistan and Tibet, too. Though not in large scale, death and destruction marred these countries too.

There are many earthquake prone regions around the world. Himalayan region comprising of Nepal and Tibet is one among them. It can be assumed from the reports that the region has become more insecure and vulnerable. Following the first earthquake, there were 64 aftershocks in Nepal and 59 in India. Geoscientists point out that so many earthquakes happening within such a short period should be taken seriously. Scientific explanation goes that earthquakes happens when the plates under the earth shifts horizontally and vertically and slip over the rocks beneath the earth.

This explanation has some fundamental flaws. What is the role of human beings in such unnatural movement of earth is one of the missing questions. "Mischief has appeared on land and sea because of what men's hands have done," says The Holy Quran (The Rome). Take the case of Nepal. The country with mountains and rivers is in an ecologically fragile region. Any construction activity should be done with utmost care. But environmental destruction to build huge structures has no limits. Water sources are choked with soil. Density of population is increasing manifold with urbanization. Studies say that all these disturb the ecological balance. Recently, numerous alerts were sounded around the region. The avalanche that happened in Kashmir last year was a pointer towards imbalance of nature. Un-seasonal rain has caused heavy damages in agriculture around Northern India. Global warming, tsunami and cyclones are not just natural disasters, they are in fact man-made disasters.

Quran repeatedly reminds us to realize this. Nature is conditioned by the Almighty in a disciplined and balanced mode. No one can finger a defect or limitation in His system. Earth, which is a part of this nature, also has a balanced ecosystem. Development needs to sustain this balance. Any action which disturbs this balance is a transgression. It is then earth shakes; men become victims of huge disasters. This fundamental mistake is not highlighted in the discussions following natural disasters. Therefore, we might be waiting for more disastrous calamities. We only want to know, where it will occur.

The first lesson which natural disasters convey is that human beings are so helpless and weak creatures. The skyscrapers of human vanity collapses within seconds. Science and technology with which we boast to have mastered the nature, do not come for help in disasters. In the three days following the aftershocks, people in Nepal slept under the open sky. They were scared of the huge structures they themselves had built. Were not they pleading in their hearts, ‘Oh Lord, only You can protect us’.

Aftermath the disaster, National Disaster Response Force rushed to Nepal. We repeated our preparedness and quick response that we showed in rescuing those stuck in Yemen. Countries around the world extended helping hands. Small groups like Ideal Relief Wing of Kerala are engaged in relief and rehabilitation works. But considering the expanse of the disaster, these measures are miniscule. Socio-cultural and political outfits of Kerala should take the problem more earnestly and extend their services. A coordination and understanding among voluntary organizations will be more effective.