Any disaster that arises from the physical phenomena—hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis—can be deemed a natural disaster. So-called “man-made” disasters are often the direct result of natural conditions. The floods that devastated New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 were caused by levees that burst, but it was the hurricane’s wind and rain that caused the excess of water. Likewise, fires destroyed large sections of San Francisco in April 1906, but they were caused by broken gas lines resulting from a major earthquake.
Natural disasters can strike anywhere, and they can destroy wealthy communities as easily as they destroy poorer ones. The poor usually suffer more than the rich, however, because they lack the resources to rebuild or to relocate. Government agencies can assist those who have lost their homes and possessions, but often that assistance covers only part of what is needed. Moreover, it is difficult for people to get protection such as homeowner’s insurance in areas prone to damage from floods or hurricanes.
Nonetheless, there are numerous agencies (federal and state government as well as non-governmental) that provide help to those in need when disaster strikes. Anyone who is a victim of natural disaster needs to know which agencies can help and how to contact them.