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Meeting Mother Nature’s wrath

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The past month has seen Mother Nature’s wrath unleashed along what seems to be the entire northern half of the planet. From floods in Bangladesh, India and Italy, to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and the soon-to-come Jose, human beings are being reminded that they are but a small part of the ecosystem they live in.

Mother natures wrath

Throughout these disasters, social media has once again proved its importance in keeping people informed, as well as its propensity for the ridiculous. Real-time videos and feeds served to keep the world abreast of the devastation wrought and the amazing rescues accomplished, while fake news almost immediately started doing its rounds. One intrepid group of Americans with a sense of humour started a “Shoot Hurricane Irma” Facebook event which received so many followers that authorities had to post infographics about why it’s a bad idea to shoot at a weather system.

Social media was also, arguably, the only way that people who were not Americans could keep abreast of what was happening in their particular disaster area. Much criticism has been levelled at the mass media for being too US-centric, as witnessed by the fact that the flooding in other parts of the world was barely covered while minute-by-minute updates were being provided of Hurricane Irma’s trajectory, possible trajectory, wind speed, potential wind speed, and the ramifications of each possible landfall situation. Some commentators even voiced the opinion that Irma’s swathe of destruction across the Caribbean would not have been featured in the media had the hurricane not been heading for the US.

However, the magnitude of Irma was enough to make the hurricane a massive news story, regardless of location. An extremely powerful and catastrophic Cape Verde type hurricane, meaning an Atlantic hurricane that originates at low-latitude from a tropical wave that has passed over or near the Cape Verde islands after exiting the coast of West Africa, Irma developed into a Category 5 hurricane.

Category 5 is the highest category of the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale. This classification can provide some indication of the potential damage and flooding a hurricane will cause upon landfall, and is based on the intensity of the winds sustained by a hurricane. Category 5 hurricanes are storms with sustained winds exceeding 251 km/h.

“These storms cause complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings, and some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Collapse of many wide-span roofs and walls, especially those with no interior supports, is common. Very heavy and irreparable damage to many wood frame structures and total destruction to mobile/manufactured homes is prevalent. Only a few types of structures are capable of surviving intact, and only if located at least 3 to 5 miles (5 to 8 km) inland,” Wikipedia explains.

Irma caused catastrophic damage in Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands. To date, at least 79 deaths have been recorded with 43 in the Caribbean and 36 in the United States. While the number of fatalities is much smaller than those witnessed in the India floods, the sheer scale of Hurricane Irma made for a jaw-dropping spectacle.

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