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Scrutiny
  
Are wildfires natural disasters?
If not, the question is why aren’t they considered natural disasters?
16/09/2010

Wildfires, in complete justice to their name, are experiencing an increase in incidence since the last few years in particular. These uncontrollable conflagrations can destroy multiple forests within a few hours. As per a report, in the United States, on an average, around 100,000 wildfire incidents annually destroy 4-5 million acres of land converting the same to ashes.

A recent series of wildfires in Russia has led to the tragic death of around 50 people and injuries amongst a few thousand others, besides causing tremendous economic damage. A San Diego State University study shows that “the actual economic costs of wildfires are much greater than generally estimated.” The research proves that due to the 2003 San Diego wildfires, the actual economic loss was to the tune of $2 billion. In the Russian case, the situation is worse. A conservative estimate shows that the economic loss due to the current Russian wildfires would be close to $15 billion, eventually leading to inflation and similar economic problems. Russia has had to immediately ban the export of grains in the light of these raging wildfires.

The infamous Black Saturday bushfires in Australia in February 2009, led to an insurance cost of $1.5 billion. On an optimistic note, a economist from Goldman Sachs JBWere had said at that time, “As tragic as the events of the past...days have been, the rebuilding phase will provide a catalyst for economic growth in the coming months, even if personal and environmental costs take years to recover.” Clearly an optimistic viewpoint.

Most wildfires are caused by human carelessness. Besides environmental impact, they also hamper forest trade & livelihood. But one rarely hears of international support to countries suffering from wildfires. This is the time that wildfires should be considered as much of natural disasters (irrespective of how they started) as floods or earthquakes, with increased global support.

By:- Sray Agarwal
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