When Natural Disasters Strike
Accra, Ghana, July 4, 1995: The heaviest rains in almost 60 years caused severe flooding. Some 200,000 lost everything, 500,000 lost access to their homes, and 22 lost their lives.
San Angelo, Texas, U.S.A., May 28, 1995: Tornadoes and hail ravaged this city of 90,000 inhabitants, causing an estimated $120 million (U.S.) in damages.
Kobe, Japan, January 17, 1995: An earthquake lasting just 20 seconds left thousands dead, tens of thousands injured, and hundreds of thousands homeless.
WE ARE living in what might be called an era of disasters. A United Nations report reveals that in the 30-year period from 1963-92, the number of people killed, injured, or displaced by disasters increased an average of 6 percent each year. The bleak situation has caused the UN to designate the 1990’s as “the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.”
Of course, a force of nature—such as a storm, a volcanic eruption, or an earthquake—does not always bring disaster. Hundreds occur each year with no harm to humans. But when a heavy toll on life and property is involved, it is rightly called a disaster.
An increase of natural disasters appears to be inevitable. The book Natural Disasters—Acts of God or Acts of Man? notes: “People are changing their environment to make it more prone to some disasters, and are behaving so as to make themselves more vulnerable to those hazards.” The book presents a hypothetical example: “A mild earthquake in a shantytown of heavy mud-brick houses on the side of a steep ravine may well prove a disaster in terms of human deaths and suffering. But is the disaster more the result of the earthshocks or of the fact that people are living in such dangerous houses on such dangerous ground?”
To students of the Bible, there is yet another reason why the increase in natural disasters is not surprising. Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ foretold that “the conclusion of the system of things” would be marked by, among other things, “food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another.” (Matthew 24:3, 6-8) The Bible also foretold that during “the last days,” men would be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, without natural affection, and without love of goodness.* (2 Timothy 3:1-5) These traits often cause man to work against his environment, making humans more vulnerable to natural forces. Man-made disasters are also an offshoot from the loveless society in which most have to live.
As our planet becomes more heavily populated, as human behavior puts people at higher risk, and as earth’s resources are increasingly mismanaged, disasters will continue to plague man. Providing relief presents challenges, as the following article will show.
For more information on the sign of the last days, see the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, pages 98-107, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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Top: Information Services Department, Ghana; right: San Angelo Standard-Times
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COVER: Maxie Roberts/Courtesy of THE STATE