‘There’s no such thing as a natural disaster” –Neil Smith. Critical response essay: Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar (Burma).
Neil Smith claims ‘there’s no such thing as a natural disaster. In every phase and aspect of a disaster- causes, vulnerability, preparedness, results and response, and reconstruction’ , this statement, while Katrina specific, reflects upon ‘natural’ disasters’ causes and impacts through the nature and society of the affected area. A prime example highlighting the social impacts on an area heightening nature’s forces into the ‘disaster’ realm is Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar, which caused mass devastation and destruction in May 2008.
The cyclone formed in the Bay of Bengal in a depression and nine hours later intensified into a tropical cyclone . The storm made landfall 2nd May at the mouth of the Irrawaddy River, alongside a storm surge as high as 12 feet, which infiltrated 25 miles inland. The cyclone had reached a category four storm; hitting land at peak strength, gradually weakening as it proceeded East over Myanmar as a category two, then subsided on May 3rd. With situations such as this Neil Smith argues, there is no denial of the natural process but the ‘disaster’ categorisation of this event is entirely due to Myanmar’s location: in a populated area with an agricultural industry, and its attachment to the social elements of the cyclone, pushing it into the disaster category, with questions of human-induced climate change questioned for blame, alongside government response.
Concurrent to the hurricane was civil unrest regarding the government, which seemingly took priority to the relief aid by the Burmese government, further hindering relief efforts was the governments distrust of foreign personnel entering their country.
Smith introduces in his peace elements of social affects to be contributors in the causation of the event, with human’s impact with and on climate change, with some environmentalists’ suggesting this is the case with...