After disasters strike, communities sometimes have no choice but to build a new life in a new place.
Individual families may weigh the risks and decide to uproot. A government may bar rebuilding in a disaster-hit community – as happened after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, where 200,000 families are targeted for resettlement – and assist people to move to safer ground. Or in some places – like communities near a destructive river in Assam, India – the land may have disappeared altogether.
Obviously, not all natural disasters are linked to climate change, but storms, floods and other weather-related hazards accounted for 98 percent of disaster-related displacement - 31.7 million people - in 2012, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).
While the figures vary sharply from year to year, depending on disasters, the risk of displacement is expected to rise, IDMC said in a recent report, noting that human-driven climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severity of weather-related hazards.
Here is a chronological list of a handful of communities that have relocated in the wake of disasters, including seismic events like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Good Friday typhoon in the Pacific Islands, 1907: After a typhoon killed hundreds of people on Pacific Islands in 1907, the German colonial administration helped 300 people relocate from Woleai (in the Federated States of Micronesia) and build a new settlement in Saipan (now the Northern Mariana Islands, a commonwealth of the U.S.).
Hurricane Mitch in Honduras, 1988: After 300 kilometre-per-hour winds tore across Honduras and Nicaragua, non-governmental organisations helped develop housing projects for more than 1,200 families to relocate 35 kilometres away from Tegucigalpa, the capital, to the Amarateca Valley. Divina Providencia and Ciudad España were two new communities built.
Great flood of the Mississippi River in the U.S., 1993: After the flood displaced 2,500 people from Valmeyer, Illinois, and nearby farms, the village purchased a 500-acre (200-hectare) plot of farmland nearby for $3 million and relocated the village, its homes, three churches and school.
Indian Ocean tsunami in Asia, 2004: After the devastating tsunami, the Sri Lanka government created a 100- to 200-metre no-construction buffer zone along the coast, which meant thousands of households in Hambantota district had to be resettled. In neighbouring India, the tsunami left 30,000 families homeless in Nagapattinam – a district where two-thirds of the land is below sea level. The identification of suitable land for relocation took nearly six months, and the Tamil Nadu state government ended up buying 364 hectares for $5 million.
Typhoon Frank in the Philippines, 2008: For years before the typhoon hit, several local NGOs in Ilioilo City had been working to relocate the urban poor from flood-prone areas along the city’s riverbanks. Land acquired in 2000, covering 16.2 hectares, was assigned to relocate families affected by Typhoon Frank. One of the NGOs built 172 homes, which were priced between $1,770 and $3,650 each.
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