Last week’s eruption of the Calbuco volcano in Chile was its first in more than four decades. Officials issued a red alert for a nearby city, Puerto Montt, and evacuated more than 1,500 people in a six-mile radius of the volcano—some 600 miles south of Santiago—as ash began to spew into the air.
At least 17 people were killed Saturday after an earthquake outside Kathmandu triggered the avalanche
An initial wave of survivors from Mount Everest arrived in Kathmandu on Sunday, one day after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck outside Nepal’s capital city and triggered an avalanche that killed at least 17 people and injured dozens more, the Associated Press reports.
AFP photographer Roberto Schmidt was at Everest Base Camp on Saturday when the avalanche flattened parts of it. After capturing the snow and debris rushing down, he turned his camera to document the aftermath: mangled tents, rescuers helping the injured and the helicopters taking them off the mountain.
A man was pulled from the rubble alive in Kathmandu after a 7.8-magnitude quake struck on Saturday
Photojournalist Narendra Shrestha was at home on Saturday when he felt the tremors of a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck central Nepal, killing more than 1130 people.
“I thought I was going to die,” Shrestha tells TIME. “It was horrifying. How did I get out of this? This is my lucky day.”
As soon as the tremors began, his daughter started crying—she did not want him to leave their newly built home, which was left intact. But, Shrestha said to himself, “I should capture this. This is my job”
Shrestha, 40, a staff photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency based in Kathmandu, has worked in the region and across the world for 17 years.
Shrestha was stunned by the devastation after the quake. “Everybody is in shock,” he said.
Not far from his home in Thamel, the main tourist hub in Kathmandu, he came across a hotel under construction. An old home next to the hotel had collapsed, trapping an undetermined number of people. Shrestha estimated 40 construction workers were on site, actively searching for people who were trapped, when they found a man.
“All you could see was his head,” he said. “The rest of his body was buried.”
As they worked to uncover him it was apparent he was still alive.
With dust still in the air and a flurry of rescue workers and volunteers scrambling to find survivors, Shrestha captured the scenes of chaos before returning to his office to transmit his photos, as aftershocks continued to be felt across the region.
Shrestha also checked on his father—who has lived through numerous earthquakes. “He’s never seen anything like this,” he said
As night approached in Kathmandu, people were still in shock, he added. “Nobody is going to sleep in their homes tonight. I’m going to move my family outside. I’m just grateful my family is OK.”
April 14, 1935: The worst dust storm in history descends on the Great Plains—exactly four years before 'The Grapes of Wrath' is published
The dust fell so thickly on this day, April 14, 80 years ago, that even Okies and Texans inured to dust storms thought the end of the world was upon them. The fast-moving, low-hanging black cloud caught them unprepared, trapping motorists in their cars and forcing those who were caught out in the open to drop to their knees and crawl blindly toward shelter, according to an account by the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. “Afternoon brightness [plunged] immediately into midnight darkness,” noted one National Weather Service observer.
It became known as the Black Sunday storm — the worst on record in the drought-stricken Great Plains. An Associated Press reporter and photographer who had tried to outrun the storm in a car were trapped for hours in the suffocating blackness. The next day, the reporter used the term “Dust Bowl” for the first time in print to describe the devastated region: “Three little words — achingly familiar on a western farmer’s tongue — rule life today in the dust bowl of the continent … ‘if it rains,’ ” he wrote.
Four years after Black Sunday, John Steinbeck marked the storm’s anniversary by publishing The Grapes of Wrath, the iconic tale of Oklahoma tenant farmers driven off their land and pushed into California in search of a new life. The fictional Joad family joined the real-life exodus of migrant farmers — roughly a quarter of a million of them, per TIME — who followed the same path out of desperation after the farms of the Great Plains were ruined by drought, overgrazing and unsustainable farming practices.
But in the promised land where Ma Joad dreamed of “a white house with oranges growin’ around,” they encountered hostility and living conditions not much better than in the dusty wasteland they’d left behind.
“Some of them camp in packing-box jungles and drink ditchwater; others are lucky enough to lodge in new government camps with modern plumbing and electric washing machines,” TIME observed in a 1940 article that compared the real-life migrant farmers to Steinbeck’s fictional ones. (Reviled as the penniless Okies were in California, TIME offered an ambivalent defense: “Strangely enough the incidence of venereal disease among the migrants is lower than among native Californians, and they have relatively little tuberculosis. Greatest plague: dietary diseases (scurvy and pellagra), resulting from lack of fresh meat and vegetables.”)
And while The Grapes of Wrath climbed to the top of the bestseller list, won the Pulitzer Prize, and became a “cornerstone of [Steinbeck’s] 1962 Nobel Prize,” according to the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition, TIME was similarly ambivalent about the merits of the book. In its review, TIME concludes:
The publishers believe it is “perhaps the greatest modern American novel, perhaps the greatest single creative work this country has ever produced.” It is not. But it is Steinbeck’s best novel… It is “great” in the way that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was great — because it is inspired propaganda, half tract, half human-interest story, emotionalizing a great theme.
Read the full review of The Grapes of Wrath, here in the TIME archives: Oakies
President says rising sea levels due to climate change exacerbated the situation+ READ ARTICLE
Vanuatu’s President Baldwin Lonsdale says the tiny South Pacific island nation has lost much of its development due to the havoc wreaked over the weekend by “monster” Cyclone Pam.
“It’s a setback for the government and for the people of Vanuatu. After all the development that has taken place, all this development has been wiped out,” he told the Associated Press in Japan attending a U.N. conference on disaster-risk reduction. “We will have to start anew again.”
Lonsdale went on to say that climate change contributed to the devastation as the low-lying islands of the Pacific are suffering from rising sea levels.
International aid agencies along with military personnel from Australia, France and New Zealand have arrived in Vanuatu to assess the damage and deliver much needed aid and supplies.
Oxfam, who led coordination efforts in preparing for the storm, said 90% of housing in the capital, Port Vila, has been seriously damaged as the Category 5 cyclone ripped through the country bringing with it wind speeds of up to 168 m.p.h. on Friday and Saturday.
The government of Vanuatu declared a state of emergency on Sunday for Shefa province, which includes Port Vila.
Military planes started carrying out surveillance flights on Monday to assess the damage, but the full extent of the devastation in the many vulnerable outer islands, which are home to 33,000 people, is still unknown. Humanitarian organization World Vision told TIME that given the severity of the damage in Port Vila, they “fear the worst” for the other 81 islands. Only 21 of the agency’s 80 staff across the archipelago nation have been accounted for.
The death toll currently stands at eight with more than 30 injured, but that is expected to rise as rescue teams reach remote areas.
World Vision says the hospital in Port Vila, which suffered damage in the storm, is operational but overcrowded and vehicles are short on fuel. Evacuation centers are packed and humanitarian agencies are focusing their responses on providing food, water, sanitation, shelter, health care and child protection to the thousands of people left homeless and vulnerable.
According to aid group ReliefWeb, Internet, radio and GSM communications remain offline throughout the country with the exception of Port Vila, which has intermittent services. More than 80% of power lines in the capital are down and will not be fully restored for several weeks.
Oxfam county director Colin Collet van Rooyen said damage to hospitals, schools and morgues could create major problems in the coming days.
“With extra help arriving on the Australian government plane today, we now have a team of 10 people working on this emergency response, and there is a lot of work to be done,” he said from Port Vila.
Cyclone Pam also caused serious damage in nine other countries including Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands, according to the U.N. The cyclone, which has now been downgraded, has moved on to New Zealand, where hundreds of people are without power.
On Mar. 11, 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit Japan
It has now been four years to the day since an earthquake and tsunami upended Japan. These days, the country continues to rebound from the devastating natural disaster that struck on Mar. 11, 2011, with cleanup — nuclear and otherwise — and reflection ongoing.
In the days and weeks immediately following the earthquake, those questions were all the more urgent.
TIME devoted a special report to the aftermath of the disaster, taking a look at Japan’s nuclear power industry as well as its national character. The insights drawn from those investigations are still worth heeding, even today. As TIME’s Nancy Gibbs wrote in the aftermath of the quake:
It only started as a natural disaster; the next waves were all man-made, as money fled to higher ground. Fear and uncertainty sheared $700 billion off the Toyko Stock Exchange in three days. Japan makes nearly a quarter of the world’s semiconductors and most of its gadgets. Sony suspended production at seven plants; carmakers slowed output, fearful of gaps in the supply chain; power companies scheduled rolling blackouts. How can a global recovery take hold if the world’s third largest economy is out of business, even temporarily? Meanwhile, Switzerland announced a freeze on new nuclear plants, Germany shut down all its facilities built before 1980, and the U.S. Congress called for hearings on nuclear safety. The flooded Japanese plants will never reopen. But demand for power only grows.
We sleep easy in the soft arms of clichés: hope for the best, prepare for the worst; risk varies inversely with knowledge; it’s a waste of time to think about the unthinkable. But Japan shook those soothing assumptions. No amount of planning, no skills or specs or spreadsheets, can stop a force that moves the planet.
Read the full special report, here in the TIME Vault: Japan’s Meltdown
But the chances of a moderate earthquake went down
The chances of earthquake magnitude 8.0 or greater hitting California in the next 30 years have been increased from about 4.7% to 7%, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said in a statement Tuesday.
The revised forecast was calculated by the Third California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF3), a follow-up to 2008’s UCERF2 conducted by USGS and its partners, who modeled the latest geological data.
While UCERF3 increased the odds of a massive California earthquake, the study lowered the chance of an earthquake around magnitude 6.7—like the 1994 Northridge earthquake—by about 30%, from one every 4.8 years to one every 6.3 years.
“The new likelihoods are due to the inclusion of possible multi-fault ruptures, where earthquakes are no longer confined to separate, individual faults, but can occasionally rupture multiple faults simultaneously,” said the study’s lead author Ned Field.
The earthquake devastated a nation that was on the verge of achieving long-term economic and political stability
Five years ago on Monday, just as the Caribbean nation of Haiti was beginning to stand on solid footing, the ground beneath it shook. The tremor flattened buildings and killed more than 200,000 people, bringing to a halt the country’s slow but encouraging progress toward economic and political stability.
“Tragedy has a way of visiting those who can bear it least,” TIME’s Michael Elliott observed shortly after, reporting on the earthquake. By then, the devastation wrought by the tremor was coming into focus. The capital city of Port-au-Prince, just 15 miles from the epicenter, had been largely leveled; the National Palace and the city’s cathedral were destroyed; and aid workers were already pleading for international help with messages like this email from Louise Ivers, clinical director for Haiti for the NGO Partners in Health: “Port-au-Prince is devastated, lot of deaths. SOS. SOS … Please help us.”
Support did flow in, in the form of aid workers, foreign aid, and more than $1 billion in charity. But the earthquake set back years of development work in the impoverished country. As TIME reported:
What makes the earthquake especially ‘cruel and incomprehensible,’ as U.S. President Barack Obama put it, was that it struck at a rare moment of optimism. After decades of natural and political catastrophes, the U.N. peacekeeping force and an international investment campaign headed by former President Bill Clinton, the U.N.’s special envoy to Haiti, had recently begun to calm and rebuild the nation.
Starting from scratch, the post-earthquake rebuilding process has made headway. Rubble that covered the ground and blocked transit routes, one of the most tangible signs of the country’s slow recovery in the months after the earthquake, has now largely been cleared. Infrastructure, including a new airport, has been rebuilt. And the number of people living in makeshift tent homes has dropped from some 1.5 million to 70,000, Harry Adam, head of the Department for Construction of Housing and Public Buildings told AFP.
But Haiti, which still hosts the U.N. peacekeeping force known as MINUSTAH (the French acronym for the mission), has a long path ahead. On Friday, the United Nations issued a grim warning of the risks facing the country, the poorest in the western hemisphere. “Persistent chronic poverty and inequality, environmental degradation and continuing political uncertainty threaten achievements Haitians have made over the past five years,” Wendy Bigham, the World Food Programme’s representative in Haiti, said in a statement. Meanwhile, an ongoing political crisis over long-overdue elections has slowed critical recovery efforts and threatens to devolve further. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, largely credited with overseeing much of the nation’s reconstruction since he took office in 2012, resigned last month amid mass street protests, but his departure has failed to lead to political compromise.
In a statement Wednesday that highlighted the consequences of political instability, the U.N. called for a political compromise by the end of the week “in order to strengthen stability, preserve the democratic gains and ensure sustainable development in Haiti.” Five year’s after the earthquake, Haiti can still scarcely bear more turmoil.
Browse TIME’s special issue about the Haiti earthquake: Haiti’s Tragedy
Nearly 160,000 have been left homeless since the flooding began
Flooding in Malaysia and Thailand has killed 24 people and left nearly 160,000 homeless since mid-December, in the deadliest regional flood season in a decade, according to recent reports.
Malaysian authorities said the rain is expected to last at least another week, Reuters reported.
The death total includes 10 in Malaysia and 14 in Southern Thailand.
The news comes as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visited sites of the flooding following his return from Hawaii on Friday. Razak had been criticized for playing golf with U.S. President Barack Obama during the floods.
Read TIME's report on the the natural disaster that struck ten years ago.
The day of Dec. 26, 2004, started with an earthquake, off the coast of Sumatra, and only got worse as the resulting tsunami hit coastal nations throughout the Indian Ocean.
As TIME explained in a special issue devoted to the devastation, the geology behind the tsunami caused a chain reaction of disaster:
Geologists describe the tectonics–the almost imperceptibly slow movement of massive plates–of the southern Indian Ocean as complex because a number of plates converge there. The floor of the Indian Ocean–the Indian plate–is moving north at around 2.5 in. per year, about twice the rate that your fingernails grow. As it moves, it is forced under the Burma plate to its east. Eighteen miles below the surface of the ocean, stresses that had been gradually accumulating forced the Burma plate to snap upward. That was a huge geological event, eventually measured at 9.0 on the Richter scale. The dislocation of the boundary between the Indian and Burma plates took place over a length of 745 miles and within three days had set off 68 aftershocks.
The movement of the plates sent shock waves through the water. Although tsunamis are often (incorrectly) called tidal waves, they have nothing to do with tides. They are, rather, very long waves–sometimes with hundreds of miles between their crests–that race along the ocean at speeds that can reach almost 500 miles an hour. In deep, open water, you would never notice even the most devastating tsunamis, which are often no more than a few inches high there. But when the water’s depth decreases, the wavelength shortens and the height of the wave increases. Then it crashes onto shore with the power to wreck buildings and throw trucks around as if they were Ping-Pong balls.
Tsunamis, moreover, have a trick up their watery sleeve, one that can trap the unwary. If the trough of a wave hits the shore before a crest, the first thing that anyone on shore notices is not water rushing onto the land but the opposite. That is what happened in Thailand and Sri Lanka. In the Sri Lankan town of Trincomalee, a hotel manager remembers the sea rushing out so the beach became magically full of gorgeous, colorful, stranded fish. “Men ran down to the shore with gunny-bags and stuffed them full of fish,” he says. On Phuket, Tiina Seppanen, a Finn, 20, on vacation with her sister and mother, also noticed that the tide had gone way out. “People were saying it was something to do with the full moon,” she says. And just as in Sri Lanka, people went on to the beach to collect the fish that had been stranded.
Tiina Seppanen survived, but more than 100,000 others did not. Read the rest of the special issue, here in the TIME Vault, to learn more about what happened: Tsunami