Monday, July 7, 2014

Disasters of the Earth: Famines, Dust Bowls, and Earthquakes

The Dust Bowl
Since August will be the anniversary of four major tragedies, I thought I'd highlight the books and authors that are part of a genre called disaster books.  The definition according to Wikipedia is:

"Disaster books are a literary genre involving detailed descriptions of major historical disasters, often based on the historical records or personal testimonies of survivors. Since reportage of both natural disasters and man-made disasters is commonplace, authors tend to be journalists who develop their news reports into books."

The past few weeks we've covered fire disasters (volcanoes, etc.) and water disasters (hurricanes, etc.)  This week we will be covering earth or land disasters--so earthquakes, dust bowls, and famines.  Look for other types of disaster books in the following weeks.  Give these books and authors a try--you won't be disappointed.

New Madrid Damage
New Madrid Earthquakes--Central Mississippi valley, U. S.--from December 16, 1811-March of 1812--in this three month period, there were over 2,000 quakes in the central Midwest and 6,000 to 10,000 in the boot-heel of Missouri.  No other earthquakes have lasted as long or produced so much damage.  Three during this time are on the list of the United State's top quakes: on December 16, 1811--8.1 magnitude, on January 23, 1812--7 or 8 magnitude, and February 7, 1812--was a 8.8 magnitude!  It was so powerful that the Mississippi River was actually witnessed running backwards in spots.  The number of fatalities is unknown because of the sparse population in the areas hardest hit.  The aftershocks were felt through the year 1817, six years later!

--When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes by Jay Feldman

The Famine Memorial in Dublin
Great Irish Potato Famine--Ireland--1845-1850--over one million died and over one million emigrated--$725 million in economic loss.  A parasitic fungus wiped out the potato crop which was the Irish farmers main food staple.  So most died of starvation and diseases.

--The Graves Are Walking: the Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People by John Kelly

--The Great Irish Potato Famine by James S. Donnelly Jr.

San Francisco After the 1906 Earthquake and Fire
1906 San Francisco Earthquake--San Francisco, California--April 18, 1906--8.3 magnitude--the quake burst natural gas and water lines and fires burned unabated for three straight days--over 3,000 people killed and 200,000-300,000 were left homeless.  Over 21,000 buildings collapsed and it did $500 million damage.  The tremors were felt as far away as Oregon and Nevada.

--Disaster!: the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906 by Dan Kurzman

--A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester

--Aftershocks by Richard S. Wheeler (novel)

Kanto Quake and Fire Damage
The Great Kanto Earthquake--Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan--September 1, 1923--between a 7.9 or 8.3 magnitude--156,000 died and 200,000 injured.  After the quake there were huge firestorms and 80,000 homes were destroyed and 500,000 were left homeless.

--Yokohama Burning: the Deadly 1923 Earthquake and Fire That Helped Forge the Path to World War II by Joshua Hammer

Dust Bowl Damage
The Dust Bowl--Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota--1932-1937--Mismanagement of the soil, terrible droughts, and the Great Depression created a 25,000 square mile area of barren destitution in nine states.  2.5 million were left homeless or were forced to migrate.  Over 7,000 died from dust related illnesses such as dust pneumonia.  There were over $1 billion (1930s dollars) in losses which equals about $135 billion now.

--The Worst Hard Time: the Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan

--The Dust Bowl: an Illustrated History by Dayton Duncan

Bengal Famine
1943 Bengal Famine--Bengal Province of India--1943-1944--Between 1.5 and 4 million people died of starvation, malnutrition, and disease.

Ethiopian Famine
1970s-1980s Ethiopian Famine--Ethiopia--in 1973 over 60,000 people died--from 1983-1985 over 1 million people died.

--Three Famines: Starvation and Politics by Thomas Keneally (also talks about the earlier Irish Potato Famine).

Great Chinese Famine
Great Chinese Famine--People's Republic of China--1958-1962--between 20 and 45 million people died--caused by social pressure, economic mismanagement, radical changes in agriculture, and droughts and floods.  The government tried to cover it up.

--Tombstone: the Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962 by Yang Jisheng

--Mao's Great Famine: the History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962 by Frank Dikotter

Northridge Quake Damage
1994 Northridge, California Earthquake--January 17, 1994--6.7 magnitude--57 dead and over 5,000 injured--$20 billion in damages--one of the costliest natural disasters in United States history.

--Killer Quake (DVD)

2010 Haiti Earthquake Aftermath
2010 Haiti Earthquake--Haiti--January 12, 2010--7.0 magnitude--100,000-160,000 dead and 895,000 people displaced.

2010 Chile Earthquake Damage
2010 Chile Earthquake--Chile--February 27, 2010--8.8 magnitude--525 dead and 25 missing--$15-$30 billion in damage--this was the 6th largest earthquake ever recorded by seismograph.

--Deadliest Earthquakes: Haiti and Chile (DVD)

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