A natural hazard may be defined as anything which occurs in the natural environment which has the potential to damage property and cause loss of life. Natural hazards include such things as hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, floods and earthquakes. When a natural hazard impacts an area, causing damage to property and/or loss of life, this is known as a natural disaster. For instance, a powerful hurricane in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is a natural hazard. If this hurricane makes landfall, causing several deaths and destroying many homes as well as other buildings, then this situation is known as a natural disaster.
The Caribbean region has experienced several natural disasters in the past. Here are a few examples:
Jamaica (Tuesday, June 7, 1692): A powerful earthquake shook Port Royal, causing most of the town to sink below sea level. The earthquake was soon followed by a tsunami which tossed ships onto the land. About 2000 people lost their lives.
St. Vincent (Wednesday, May 7, 1902): After about a year of showing signs that an eruption was very likely, La Soufriere sent large pyroclastic flows down the sides of the mountain. Reports state that about 2000 people were killed.
Martinique (Thursday, May 8, 1902): Mount Pelee had also been showing signs that an eruption was imminent. On that day the volcano erupted violently. A massive pyroclastic flow completely destroyed the capital, St. Pierre as well as several ships in the harbour. An estimated 30,000 people lost their lives. Click here to learn more.
Jamaica (Monday, January 14, 1907): A powerful earthquake hit Kingston. It is said that most buildings in the city were destroyed . Those which were not destroyed suffered some damage. Over 800 people were killed. Click here to learn more.
Dominican Republic (Sunday, August 4, 1946): A powerful earthquake struck the Dominican Republic. The earthquake itself, though powerful, did not cause many deaths. The vast majority of deaths were caused by the tsunami which followed. About 1600 – 1800 people lost their lives.
Jamaica (Monday, September 12, 1988): Hurricane Gilbert slams into Jamaica with sustained winds of 130 miles per hour. Reports indicate that about 32 inches of rain were dumped on the island and that storm surge was up to 19 feet. About 80% of homes were badly damaged and at least 45 people lost their lives. Click here to learn more.
The CXC/CSEC syllabus requires students to be able to describe the impact of one of the following types of natural hazard on life and property; hurricanes, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.