The Horrors of Hurricane Matthew

With Donald Trump calling global warming an ?expensive hoax? and 191 countries signing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change?s Paris Agreement about emission of greenhouse gases, the issue of sustainable development and sound environmental management comes to the fore. In the midst of these international efforts to control environmental destruction, nature retaliated with one of the most damaging natural disasters in the history of the Atlantic region- Hurricane Matthew . A cyclone originating from a tropical wave that emerged off the African coast on September 22, Hurricane Matthew has traced a trail of loss of life and property in Haiti, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Bahamas and South Eastern United States. This Category 5 Atlantic hurricane has led to 889 deaths with 877 in Haiti alone and is the most threatening natural disaster in this region after Hurricane Felix in 2007.

Accompanied by heavy rains and strong winds, Hurricane Matthew has caused massive power outages and crop failure. In Florida alone, more than a million people are out of power and about 6000 are stationed at 88 shelters, desperately waiting for normalcy to return. With impassable roads, flooding in low-lying areas, excessive rainfall and landslides, this hurricane has led to a state of emergency being declared in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina in the USA. The political leaders in these states are trying to sustain hope among the citizens by announcing landfalls and weakening wind speeds of the tropical cyclone with Florida Governor Rick Scott telling reporters that, ?We know there is a lot of work to do but this state is going to come back.?

When the storm?s low latitude resulted in heavy flooding, safety measures were undertaken by respective authorities in affected countries like Cuba, Jamaica and Hispaniola by opening shelters to public use and evacuating people. The course of the hurricane can be charted thus: it emerged off the West African coast on September 22, crossing Cape Verde two days later and developing sustained tropical storm-force winds with over 40 mph (65km/h) speed by September 27 in the Atlantic Ocean; finally attaining hurricane status on September 29 with wind speeds of 120km/h and eventually doubling to 260 km/h within 24 hours. A strange phenomenon of lightning sprites was also observed over it in Puerto Rico.

Specificities aside, military and civilian spaceflight facilities at the Kenned Space Centre in Cape Canaveral USA have also been suspended. Apart from breakdown of telecommunications facilities and disruption of transportation networks, scheduled events and daily affairs, the large scale failure to save lives has shocked many international agencies into providing much needed aid. While World Nation has sent out helicopters for search and rescue missions in Haiti, UNICEF, World Food Program and the Red Cross have arranged water, shelter, food, sanitation and economic aid for rebuilding in the affected areas. US President Obama commented on the grave matter, ?we can always replace property, but we can?t replace lives.?

A distinction needs to be made between the terms hurricane, typhoon and cyclone. Hurricane refers to a weather phenomenon occurring in the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific Oceans while Typhoon stands for a similar disturbance in Northwest Pacific and Cyclones emerge in the South-pacific and the Indian Ocean. The primary causes for this disaster are warm tropical oceans, pre-existing weather disturbance, relatively light winds and moisture. If these conditions persist, they produce violent winds, torrential rainfall, floods and massive waves, which we categorise as hurricanes, when combined together. Hurricane Matthew falls into the Atlantic Ocean hurricane season that extends from 1st June to 30th November.

Being reduced to a Category 1 Hurricane by 8th October, this phenomenon continues to wreak havoc in the US states of North Carolina and Florida, in the form of post-hurricane effects. ?This rainfall is leading to record-breaking flooding over portions of eastern North Carolina, and it may result in life-threatening flooding and flash flooding elsewhere across the region,” the National Hurricane Center of USA said. Even though the hurricane?s first US landfall has been made, its eyewall or strongest section still passes over Coastal Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to leave a wave of destruction behind. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley preached caution, saying ?I’m going to ask for patience. … Do not plan to go home,? for stranded citizens.

At the time of an unpredictable natural calamity when precautionary measures cannot be undertaken, only the aid and assistance of the international community can help to tide over the crisis. It is high time our leaders set their differences aside to work for the interests of humanity at large.

?The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.?- Matthew 4:16

Let?s hope that this inspiring line from the Bible helps humanity move in the right direction of caring for its brethren.

– Contributed by Tript, a Student of Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in English

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