This dangerous world

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MODERN living often give us a false sense of security as we sit in our air conditioned, centrally heated homes with all mod cons available should we want them. Strong winds and heavy rains are no match for our brick built homes. Pity little piggy with his house made of straw and his brother with his house made of sticks.

The world we live has been evolving for billions of years, continents shift and mountain ranges rise whilst others slowly crumble to dust.

The Himalayas for example were created when the sub continent of India rammed into Asia 50 million years ago like a geological Porsche at 9cm a year.

In that time Everest has risen nearly 10km towards the sky. Even now India pushes north at 5cm a year raising Mount Everest by another centimetre each year.

Since prehistoric times man has lived close to volcanoes due to the fertile soil. We all remember the Roman City of Pompeii which was a bustling resort town until two fateful days in 79AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted drowning Pompeii under five metres of choking ash killing most of the 20,000 inhabitants.

More recently in 1980, Mount St. Helens in the US had a most deadly pyroclastic eruption blowing 3 cubic kilometres of mountain sky high and killing 57 people. 300 Kms of road and 250 homes were also destroyed.

That volcano is relatively young at 40,000 years old and is part of the so called Pacific Ring of Fire which has over 450 other active volcanoes or 75 per cent of the world’s total.

The Ring of Fire is horseshoe shaped and 40,000km long. Starting in New Zealand it passes north of Australia, through Indonesia and Borneo, then the Philippines, Japan, to Kamchatka (All Risk players will know this place for sure) in North East Asia. Then it turns southwards through Alaska, down the entire west coast of the US, Central America, and finishes at the southernmost tip of South America.

Incredibly there are 500,000 earthquakes a year with about 100,000 actually being able to be felt.

Boxing Day 2004 saw the third largest earthquake ever recorded at a magnitude of 9.3 off the coast of Indonesia. Nearly a quarter of a million people lost their lives mostly from tsunamis that reached wave heights of 30 metres high. This was the longest ever lasting earthquake at nearly 10 minutes long.

Just recently Christchurch in New Zealand was hit by two earthquakes in six months one at 6.1 and then just a few weeks ago a larger one at magnitude 7.3 which killed around 200 people.

The wrongly named film ‘Krakatoa: East of Java’ (it’s to the west) was inspired by the 1883 volcanic explosion in Indonesia that killed over 120,000 people. The power of the explosion blew 21 km3 of rock into the sky equivalent in power to 13,000 Hiroshima sized nuclear bombs and the explosion was heard 5000km away. Modern art was influenced as the skies were filled with ash up to 50km into the atmosphere leading to the amazing sunsets that were painted by JMW Turner and others. Global temperatures dropped by 1.2C for a year and did not normalise for five years.

Now the latest devastating earthquake has occurred off the coast of Japan with a magnitude of 8.9, the sixth largest ever recorded and the biggest in Japans recorded history.

As I write the BBC News channel is showing footage of vast swathes of land being submerged under metres of murky water with buildings destroyed and vehicles tossed about like bobbing apples in a bucket.

The death toll will no doubt sadly climb higher than the 1,300 poor souls reported so far. Television maps show in hours how long the 700 km/h waves will take to strike land thousands of Kms away on the other side of the Pacific. I am sure our thoughts go out to all the affected people.

 

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