The Living World
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Effects of and Responses to Tropical Storms

Tropical storms can have devastating effects on communities around the world. The impacts can vary depending on the location and the level of development of the affected area.

Let’s explore the effects and responses to a tropical storm in two contrasting areas:

  • One from a less economically developed country (LEDC) or newly emerging economy (NEE)
  • One from a highly industrialised country (HIC)

Primary and Secondary Effects

The primary (immediate) effects of a tropical storm typically include strong winds, high rainfall and storm surges. However, the storm’s aftermath, known as the secondary effects, can be equally if not more devastating.

Effects in an LEDC/NEE

In these regions, the aftermath of a tropical storm may be marked by:

  • Infrastructure damage – Many buildings and bridges may be destroyed, leading to widespread homelessness and exposure to distress, poverty and ill health. The rebuilding process is costly and often made worse because many people do not have insurance.
  • Barriers to rescue efforts – Damaged roads, railways, ports and airports can slow down rescue operations, provision of emergency services and the delivery of aid.
  • Utility disruptions – Damage to electricity lines can disrupt life support systems and lead to power outages in hospitals, shops and homes.
  • Potential fire hazards – Broken gas lines could increase the risk of fires and explosions.
  • Health threats – Overflowing sewage systems can contaminate clean water supplies, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases.
  • Flood damage – Flooding in rivers and coastal areas can result in casualties, and the destruction of crops, livestock and habitats, leading to food shortages and potential famine.
  • Economic consequences – Destroyed businesses can impact the local economy and lead to unemployment.

Effects in a HIC

The impacts in HICs can also include damage to buildings and infrastructure, and service disruption. However, the level of resilience and preparedness is generally higher, which results in a more efficient response and recovery.

Therefore, the effects in a HIC may be less severe due to stronger building structures, advanced infrastructure and more effective emergency management systems.

Immediate and Long-Term Responses

Responses to tropical storms can be classified into immediate responses and long-term responses.

Short-term responses are executed when a tropical storm is predicted, during the storm, and immediately after it passes. In contrast, long-term responses aim to restore the affected area to its previous condition and reduce the impact of future storms.

Responses in an LEDC/NEE

In these regions, responses to tropical storms may include:

  • Evacuation – People are relocated to safer areas before the storm’s arrival to ensure their safety.
  • Rescue and immediate aid – The injured are immediately rescued and treated before the storm cuts off access or causes flooding. Also, recovery teams work to remove deceased individuals to prevent the spread of waterborne and airborne diseases.
  • Temporary shelter and supplies – Temporary shelters are set up for the homeless, and immediate supplies of power, food and water are provided. Efforts are also made to reunite families separated during the storm.
  • Overseas aid – Foreign assistance may come in the form of workers, supplies, equipment or financial donations to assist with recovery efforts.
  • Long-term restoration and recovery – Long-term responses may involve repairing and improving flood defences, infrastructure and homes, along with improving building regulations. Measures to incentivise economic recovery can also be promoted to encourage people to return to the area.

Responses in a HIC

In a high income country, responses to tropical storms can range from immediate interventions like evacuations, rescue operations, and provision of temporary shelter and supplies, to more strategic long-term responses:

  • Enhanced infrastructure – Long-term responses focus on repairing and strengthening properties, improving infrastructure and enhancing building regulations to withstand future storms.
  • Advanced forecasting and warning systems – The use of advanced forecasting techniques provides more time for evacuation and preparation. Investments in early warning systems, and training and education programs, raise awareness and reduce injuries.
  • Disaster preparedness – Regular practice drills and preparedness exercises enable emergency services to respond effectively during disasters.
  • Flood defences – Investments are made in flood defences, such as sea walls and levees, to protect coastal areas.

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