Natural Disaster Protection
One of a traveller's worst nightmares must be making a trip and watching in horror as the chosen destination is hit by a natural disaster. Who can forget the devastating tsunamis that hit South Asia on Boxing Day 2004, killing over 230,000 people and destroying coastal communities? Caused by the work of two tectonic plates causing a massive earthquake, huge volumes of water were displaced by the sudden vertical rise of the seabed creating the terrifying waves that relentlessly swept over the landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean.
Mother Nature does not discriminate and every continent in the world has, at some point, been hit by health epidemics, natural disasters brought on by adverse weather conditions or tectonic plate activity, or famines caused by these ecological events. Wildfires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and avalanches all wreak havoc in various ways and often leave ruinous devastation with lives lost and communities struggling to rebuild lives. Thankfully this is often a time when the world unites in offering support and help to those affected.
Those planning to travel to an area affected by natural disaster should always refer to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website to assess safety at the destination and find out whether there are any travel restrictions. Remember that travel insurance policies may be invalidated if there are repercussions from such a disaster, deeming the area unsafe. However, what can you do if you are already staying in an area hit by a natural disaster? The following advice may help.
- Flooding – Emergency operations will be put into force but for those in remote areas taking care of themselves, certain procedures should be followed. Move to high ground and have a stock of non-perishable food and water available. Stock up on first-aid supplies, batteries, torches and, if possible, charge up any mobile phones available. Do not drink floodwater and wash hands frequently to avoid disease carried by contaminated water.
- Avalanche – Move away from heavy objects that may be displaced and hold onto something anchored, like a tree or boulder. Keep your mouth closed and try to move to the sides of the avalanche, staying at the surface if possible. Once it is over, try to reach the surface, breathe calmly, and create an air pocket with your arm. Try to reach upwards if trapped using ski poles, branches or anything else available to give rescuers a better chance of finding you.
- Tsunami – If you plan to stay in an area that is known for tsunami activity, always have a safety pack prepared in case of emergency. This should contain food, water and a first aid kit. Have an evacuation plan developed and assess potential sheltered areas, remembering that safety routes may be destroyed. Heed natural warnings by evacuating the area if there are signs of earthquake activity and watch for abnormal activity. As a last resort, climb a tree or high building, and if pulled into the water try to grab onto something that floats.