Comparing Disasters

Disaster vs. Disaster
By: Olivia Paulo

Natural disasters happen at all different times. One MAJOR disaster that has made a big impact on the southeast region of America was Hurricane Katrina. Almost a year earlier a HUGE tsunami hit the countries in the Indian Ocean. Yes both disasters hit pretty hard (although occuring in different parts of the world.) How did their locations affect the water born storms and the damage that was done? Did the different governments act the same way to help their victims? Do these storms have any similarites? Let's take a look!!
….. but first I think you should know some background info:


How Hurricanes Form
Hurricanes form in the Atlantic Ocean. In order for a hurricane to form, the water must be at least 80 degrees, 50 meters deep, in an ocean. The sun radiating heat on the water causes the water to evaporate, creating moist air over the ocean. When all that air rises it creates low pressure on the water’s surface. Then the water cools at dew point and creates cumulonimbus clouds (with the water and the condensation nuclei from the blown sand in the deserts of Africa). Next the cooled water falls on the water, making high pressure areas. When the high pressure areas move to the low pressure area, it means wind from all directions: causing a hurricane.

How Tsunami's Form
Tsunamis are triggered mostly by earthquakes, but an underwater volcano or landslide can also bring on the gigantic wave. A severe movement in the earth causes the ocean floor to convulse, therefore making the tectonic plates shift. When the plates shift like that, it causes the huge wave, known as a tsunami. By the time the wave reaches shore, it has become slower but much steeper and taller.

Hurricane Katrina Facts
• Occurred August 29, 2005
• Winds up to 140 miles per hour
• Hit Louisiana (New Orleans hardest), Alabama, Mississippi
• With damage more than $200 million
• One million people were forced to leave their homes
• Hurricane Katrina is the most expensive and destructive natural disasters in the history of the United States of America!

As you can see, Katrina did a LOT of damage!!

Indian Ocean Tsunami Earthquake
• Occurred December 26, 2004
• Started on the seabed of the Indian Ocean
• Hit Indonesia hardest, Tanzana, Kenya, Somaka, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand
• More than 300,000 people killed and 350,000 left homeless in India
• Tsunami came as a shock to everyone because there was no warning system

^ This is a picture of the areas that the Indian Ocean Tsunami affected.

How Do They Compare?

Different Government Responses

U.S.A. and Hurricane Katrina
In 2005, President George W. Bush requested that Congress provide $16.7 billion dollars in federal funds to the Katrina victims. Under the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) CDBG (Community Development Block Grants) this program, which helped rebuild homes, was the largest single housing recovery in America (according to
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) provided the damaged states of Hurricane Katrina with money to remove debris. So far, 100 million cubic yards of junk have been removed in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi with the help of USACE (United States Army Corps of Engineers) and the USCG (United States Coast Guard). Months later, nearly all the debris had been removed in Alabama and Mississippi, Louisiana (were most of the damage was done) however was only cleaned up 72%.

Indonesia and Indian Ocean Tsunami
Indonesia was hit hardest during the Indian Ocean Earthquake, with $405.7 million dollars in damage! The GOI (Government of Indonesia) couldn’t do much to help their country during the disaster. They did however, set up temporary barrack housing for the victims. When responding to this natural disaster, Indonesia did little themselves but instead relied on other countries.
• Because of USAID’s good relationship with Indonesia, and their 40 years of expertise, they were able to quickly bring Indonesia live saving food, water and shelter after the disaster. The USAID also funded Indonesia with $2 million for emergency water and health activities.
• The ILO (International Labor Organization, belonging to the United Nations) believed that employing people would be key to starting Indonesia back up again. As said by the ILO director on January 4, 2005 in, "While the ILO is neither a relief nor an assistance organization, the Office can contribute to the overall reconstruction effort both in the immediate (3 to 6 months), as well as the long term. ILO offices will participate in needs assessment, reconstruction and rehabilitation of infrastructure, housing, and revitalization of local economic activities and livelihood programmes. In addition, the ILO has voiced its special concern for the many orphaned children and the risk they may face of becoming victims of trafficking and the worst forms of child labour.”

In conclusion, the two governments responded to the disaster. America is a wealthier country, which made helping themselves easier. It was also easy for the U.S. government to help themselves because it wasn’t their entire country in the middle of a disaster. Like America, Indonesia’s government was able to be self sufficient and they provided temporary housing for their victims, however they relied on other “groups” to bring them emergency supplies and help them reconstruct their way of living.

How does the location affect the severity of the disasters in New Orleans/ Indonesia?

New Orleans:
Background Info on Louisiana:
(Provided by:

• Louisiana is the 31st largest state in America it is approximately 380 miles long and 130 miles wide.
• Louisiana is located on the southeast coast of America. Texas is the neighbor to the west, Arkansas is to the north and Mississippi sits to the east.
• Average elevation is 100ft above sea level
• Temperature ranges from 36- 93 degrees Fahrenheit
• In Louisiana, New Orleans is a city on the southeast coast

The southeast region of the U.S.A.^ New Orleans on the southeast tip of Louisiana, right on the coast.

Louisiana is a state on the coast of America. One of its big cities, New Orleans, is located on the southeastern coast. New Orleans was one of the many cities affected by Hurricane Katrina. However, Hurricanes get their energy from condensation, so they form over water. According to “National Geographic”, when Tropical Strom Katrina left Florida, she gained so much strength in the 87 degrees Fahrenheit ocean, that by the time she hit New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina was a whopping category 4! If New Orleans wasn’t on the coast it wouldn’t have been hit so hard because it wouldn’t be near the disaster’s fuel.

Background Info
(Provided by

• Indonesia is very large: 5,120 kilometers wide and 1,760 kilometers long, about three times the size of Texas!
• Indonesia is in Asia and located in the Indian Ocean
• Average climate is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with mostly hot and tropical weather
Indonesia is surrounded by water on all sides. Like New Orleans it was hit very hard because of its location. Tsunami’s form in the water (as you know from previous paragraph) so being located in the birthplace of one, is danger.

In conclusion, both disasters start on water and both affected locations are on the coast. I think that location has a big part to do with the severity of that area because Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans at a rate of 4/5 and the Indian Ocean Tsunami hit Indonesia 9/10!

Whoever thought that Hurricane Katrina, America’s worst hurricane yet, would be comparable to the Indian Ocean Earthquake that hit Indonesia at a 9.0? Referring back to the background info, the horrible hurricane and tsunami both caused lives to be lost and millions of dollars worth of damage. The tsunami however, was much larger so there were more lives lost and more damage down. Not only that, but the Indian Ocean Tsunami affected countries not just states. Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean Tsunami caused a country’s government to react. U.S.A. government acted quickly to the hurricane and because it wasn’t their whole country in ruins, they didn’t need much help from anyone. Indonesia responded to the tsunami by providing homes, and because of little wealth, they got help from other countries. One thing that the natural disasters have in common is that they affected coastal areas. This made it awful for New Orleans (city hit hardest in Hurricane Katrina) and Indonesia (country hit hardest in Indian Ocean Tsunami) because of their maritime location. Now you know the surprising similarities between Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean Tsunami, some of the world’s most devastating and damaging disasters.

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