A disaster may result from natural phenomena such as: earthquakes; volcanic eruptions; storm surges; cyclones; tropical storms; floods; avalanches; landslides; forest fires; massive insect infestations; and drought. Equally, the activities of man may result in a disaster: armed conflict; industrial accidents; radiation accidents; factory fires; explosions or escape of toxic gases or chemical substances; pollution; mining or other structural collapses; transport accidents; and dam failures. The outbreak of infectious diseases may occur spontaneously or as a result of a disaster situation.
2. Most disasters are no accident. They are made by misgovernment. Far more Africans have died in Ethiopia, Sudan, Mozambique and elsewhere by the hunger that follows avoidable civil war than by that which follows drought. In Zambia and Peru it is feckless misrule that causes needless deaths. Decades of it drove the people into cities without providing clean water there, so the cholera came. Floods and earthquakes are disasters for which it seems that only nature is to blame. Yet competent governments, given foresight and funds, can build defences against them. In June 1990 an earthquake struck the sparse villages of northern Iran killing more than 40,000 people. The previous year an equally fierce tremor, striking the packed city of San Francisco, killed fewer than 100 people.