natural disasters

Letter from Japan

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Six months on from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Dave Handley assesses the mood in Japan.

On 11 March the biggest earthquake in Japan's recorded history struck off the coast of north eastern Honshu and the resulting tsunami wreaked havoc for millions of people. More than 25,000 have been reported dead or missing and many more are coming to terms with the human and economic cost, and the reality that they'll never be able to return to their former homes. The sheer scale of the damage and the resulting debris is mind-boggling.

Japan's nuclear nightmare

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The true extent of the destruction that followed the Japanese earthquake and tsunami is only just being
seen. But it is clear that many thousands of people have lost their lives and billions of pounds worth of damage has been done.

A further casualty of this natural disaster may well be the plans to expand the use of nuclear power. Japan is the third largest user of nuclear power, with over 50 nuclear plants which provide over a third of its electricity. The magnitude 9 earthquake was greater than the plants were designed to withstand - yet such earthquakes could certainly have been foreseen.

The betrayal of Haiti

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One year on from the devastating earthquake that killed an estimated 300,000 people, ordinary Haitians are still suffering homelessness, cholera and an occupying army. Emmanuel Broadus reports on the situation from Haiti, with photos by Ryan Ffrench.


People queue to receive voter ID cards.

It was supposed to be the day that Haitians voted in what has been called one of the most important elections in Haiti's history. On the ballot on 28 November 2010 were 19 contenders for the five-year post of the presidency, all but one of the 99 seats in the House of Deputies and a third of the Senate.

Pakistan under water

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The recent floods have caused devastation in Pakistan, leading to an estimated 20 million people losing their homes and livelihoods. Karachi socialist Sartaj Khan tells Geoff Brown about the scandalous government response to a disaster that was anything but natural.

Before and after. Photo: Nasa

The monsoon happens every year. Why are these floods so disastrous?

There has been a change in the pattern of rainfall. In the last two decades we have seen a repeated cycle of acute shortage of rainfall for two or three years and then a flood like this. Last winter we saw heavy snowfalls. In many areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (the former North West Frontier Province) people experienced the first snow in 40 years.

Disaster capitalism

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Volcanic ash, eh? What is it about disasters and capitalism? It seems that any event outside the daily norm exposes all the system's horrors and weaknesses.

Throughout the general election campaign, the consensus of the major parties remained that private enterprise, the free market, low taxes and a move away from "welfarism" are all good things. You would hardly think that a system founded on these principles was going through the worst economic chaos experienced by anyone not old enough to have lived through the 1930s.

Nor would you think that this chaos was in no small part created by the unfettered and unregulated behaviour of ultra-greedy bankers and capitalists.

Haiti - who are the real looters?

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After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the sinister private security company (PSC) Blackwater was hired to provide armed mercenaries with a licence to kill in order to protect stores and private residences.

Meanwhile the sick and elderly were dying in the streets. Now PSCs are queuing for contracts to "safeguard" incoming aid and what's left of Haiti's valuable stock.

The taking of Haiti

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The theft of Haiti has been swift and crude.

On 22 January the US secured "formal approval" from the United Nations to take over all air and sea ports in Haiti, and to "secure" roads. No Haitian signed the agreement, which has no basis in law. Power rules in a US naval blockade and the arrival of 13,000 marines, special forces, spooks and mercenaries, none with humanitarian relief training.

Haiti - hell on earth

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Communication is incredibly difficult. Cell phones may work for an hour a day but people are finding it difficult to charge batteries. They can buy credit online but most don't have money.

People are trying to organise the best they can. Most are staying in their neighbourhoods unless these are completely flattened. Those with the closest links to the countryside have taken to the road.

Haiti - the making of a catastrophe

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After the earthquake struck, the people of Haiti needed food, water and shelter - instead they got US troops and predatory corporations. Haiti's problems are not just a result of a natural disaster, Mike Gonzalez argues, but are rooted in the country's history of slavery and exploitation

The numbers are almost incomprehensible, the devastation and loss impossible to imagine. At least 100,000 people lie dead under the rubble, and 2 million are homeless and abandoned. The news footage of whirring helicopters and aircraft carriers outside the ruined ports created a mirage of action - but as the days passed nothing changed in the devastated slums of Port-au-Prince.

Requiem for Katrina: A Tale of God's Will by Terence Blanchard

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"Could we film you going into your house?" asks filmmaker Spike Lee of Mrs Blanchard.

The lady had entered that house a thousand times before, but only once would she enter her house under these circumstances. Hurricane Katrina had passed through New Orleans and had done relatively little damage, but then the levees broke, bringing death and destruction. She may have been one of the lucky ones - after all she was alive - but she knew what awaited her when she entered her home: destroyed possessions, lost heirlooms and drowned memories.

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