Choose either the Philippines or California and explain why it is considered a disaster hotspot Essay

A disaster hotspot is a place where they not only have a high vulnerability, but also a number of different hazards (e.g. hydrometeorological and geomorphic ones). The Philippines is vulnerable to disasters because they’re a lower-middle income country, with majority of the people living in poverty and near the coast. This implies that they lack sufficient infrastructure to protect them against hazards and that many of these people are involved in agriculture (subsistence farmers) in order to generate some income. In addition, the Philippines is a densely populated area as the country average is 240 people per km2, and the megacities population can go up to 2000 people per km2 so their main loss is of mortality rather than economic loss.

The Philippines is located at a destructive plate boundary (Eurasian and Philippine plates) so as a result, there is regular volcanic eruptions which cause pyroclastic flows and lahars. As they’re vulnerable due to their lack of advanced infrastructure, this causes a disaster for them (following Dregg’s model). An example of a volcanic eruption that had large impacts was the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991 where it was the biggest eruption seen in 50 years. Volcanic activity causes a secondary disaster which is earthquakes, causes $844,485 worth of damage, mainly agriculture and property, and affecting 2.25 million people. Steep relief and many hills mean landslides and further lahars are sometimes a result from earthquakes. Deforestation and land degradation has lead to increased vulnerability for secondary hazards i.e. landslides and also flash flooding during typhoons.

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Deforestation increases the magnitude of flooding because plants and trees hold the soil together and absorb water in their roots so reduce the amount of water in the soil. The vegetation causes intervention so the water doesn’t flow all the way down the hills. Removing vegetation, by slash and burn, however causes flash flooding to be increased.

The climate in the Philippines is very moist and they live in a very warm climate with warm ocean temperatures above 26 degrees. When the water is above this temperature (due to La Nina- caused by global warming) warm air rises, cools and then condenses to form clouds. This causes a low pressure system which causes a lot of fast winds and creates tropical cyclones. These tropical cyclones also cause storm surges which sometimes hit the coast of the Philippines. One type of tropical cyclone is a typhoon and they have caused $9,018,574 worth of damage. The increasing urbanisation population and people migrating to the coast means more people are at risk.

Drought, caused by El Nino events effect those that are poorer because they rely on their crops and agriculture to make a living. Drought means that their crops die and therefore they will not be able to make an income and support their families. For majority of Philippians, drought does therefore act as a disaster whenever it does come. Tsunami’s also act as a disaster because the bulk of the Philippines is exposed to coast because it’s made up of many islands. Tsunamis are also a tertiary hazard after a volcanic eruption because they can follow up from an earthquake. As the islands are scattered, the risk is reduced though.

The Philippines meet the criteria for being a disaster hotspot, and the government have recently established organisations to try and forecast certain hazards such as landslides. New structural programmes of defence are now also being planned to help people face the huge range of hazards they have to face. They hope to reduce their vulnerability, as they are aware that the hazard number cannot be changed.

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