Monday, October 10, 2005
Victims of Natural Disasters - Largely the Poor
Reports about the earthquake that devastated parts of northern Pakistan mention more than 20,000 dead and countless who are homeless. Indian territories escaped major loss. The number of dead greatly exceeds Katrina's toll. In Guatemala, many victims will never be found and accounted for. There is something that jumps out of the reports and photographs---most of the victims belong to the lower end of the income scale....the "have nots".
John Lancaster, The Washington Post wrote: "The damage was said to be heaviest in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, where the area's communications minister, Tariq Mohammed, told the Associated Press that "more than 30,000 people have died." That figure was considerably higher than other official estimates and could not be independently confirmed."
Krissah Williams' report about Guatemala in the Post mentioned "At least 640 dead, many missing"
"Guatemalan officials said they would abandon communities buried by landslides and declare them mass graveyards, according to the Associated Press. Many of the missing apparently will simply be declared dead, and the ground they rest in declared hallowed."
Bigots see the hand of God in natural disasters. They talked about retribution for sinful New Orleians. Now the holy rollers might see the earthquake as punishment for atrocities committed by Islamic Jihadis. Give them time, they will come up with cause for the suffering of the Guatemalans.
The earth's restlessness is easier to understand. There are explanations for earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding. Nevertheless, it seems that the burden of suffering falls disproportionately on the poor. It is because of the areas where they live, the kind of housing which they can afford, and what they do for livelihood.
The San Francisco Bay area, of which I am a resident, is considered high risk because of close proximity to earthquake faults. Minor temblors are common and the seismologists talk about the "big one" that is going to hit. If and when a major earthquake takes place in this area the profile of victims will be markedly different.