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Authors: Guidoboni, E.* 
Jackson, J.*
Title: Seismic disasters and poverty: some data and reflections on past and current trends
Issue Date: 2008
ISBN: 978-3-9812101-1-8
Keywords: Calabria earthquakes
social impact
seismic disaster
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.06. Seismology::04.06.05. Historical seismology 
Abstract: Strong earthquakes and tsunamis, like other natural disasters (storms, hurricanes, floods) are destructive events that strongly affect the standard of living of the populations they hit. Their impact on human societies varies according to the frequency with which they occur, the quality of the buildings, the demographic density and the economy of the areas involved. In areas with a precarious economic equilibrium, natural disasters have increate the speed of impoverishment in the short and medium term. The economic and social impact of seismic disasters over the medium and long term can be ossesse by analysing the quality of reconstruction work and the time taken to carry it out. Historical and recent records show that when reconstruction is slow and funds are largely or totally lacking, there is a negative effect even on later generations, increasing the vulnerability of the buildings and therefore increasing the hazard from other later destructive events. At times when reconstruction work is being carried out, now as in the past, local economic crises, emigration, famine, plague may also occur, leading to further losses. In so far as the increasing disparity in living standards across the world is affected by seismic disasters, the scenarios we find today tend to be new, since earthquakes and tsunamis of the same size can have effects of widely varying severity depending on the context. The poorest and most densely populated areas in the world (Near East, Asia, and along the coast of South America), are those most likely to suffer major disasters in the near future. This general trend does not exclude the possibility of economically strong regions being struck by natural disasters resulting in high death tolls and serious economic damage (see the case of New Orleans, in 2004). The technological systems on which urban life depends are in fact very vulnerable. But the difference lies in the resources available for recovery and the time required to effect it. We can therefore be sure, not only that very poor and highly populated areas will suffer the worst natural disasters, but also that the destructive effects of these disasters will tend to worsen pre-existing poverty levels. The authors present some cases that highlight this historical and current trend in Iran, Pakistan and Italy. For Italy, they present a historical case study of Calabria over the last three centuries. A sequence of destructive earthquakes has played a crucial role in the economy and the culture of that region, which is today one of the poorest in Italy. Historical research has shown that this kind of poverty results from the loss, not only of houses and other buildings needed for production purposes, but also of knowledge, skills and trade exchanges.
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