Wednesday 17 March 2010

Lingering disasters

Disasters do not always claim all their victims at once. It has been revealed that perhaps 800 people have died, and up to 10,000 have become ill, as a result of poisons they were exposed to in the aftermath of 9/11. There is now an argument in the USA over who should pay for their medical care. Just under 3,000 died in the attack.

Sometimes the aftermath is far deadlier than the original event. In the world’s worst ever dam burst (see my blog of March 15), human rights campaigners estimate that 85,000 were drowned, but that another 145,000 died of starvation and disease after the event.

A similar pattern can be seen in other floods. When the Yellow and Yangtze rivers burst their banks in 1931, the immediate death toll was around 130,000, but up to 3 million more starved or died from illness later.

As with 9/11, poisons wreak their havoc over many years. The initial death toll from Bhopal was about 3,800, but it’s claimed that another 20,000 died from poisoning over the years that followed (see my blog of Aug 1). While at Chernobyl, only about 30 people died in the first few weeks after the explosion, but some believe it will eventually cause fatal cancers in up to 200,000 (see my blog of April 14).

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