A disaster is an unexpected natural or man-made catastrophe of substantial extent causing significant property damage or destruction, loss of life or sometimes permanent changes to the natural environment. Disasters may also be unforeseen events which devastate a company or industry, such as a public relations disaster or a major flop. A disaster can create huge financial losses and protection against losses due to disasters is one purpose of insurance.
Disaster tourism is travelling to a disaster scene not primarily for helping, but because one finds it interesting to see. It can be a problem if it hinders rescue, relieve and repair work.
'Disaster' comes from the Italian disastro, which means "unfavourable to one's stars", ultimately from the Greek astron (star), and reflects the key characteristic of a disaster which is its unintentional nature. Catastrophes which are intentional, such as terrorist attacks, are often called man-made or technological disasters.
See also: disaster relief, space disaster, list of disasters
A disaster in database terminology is a loss of data which cannot be recovered.
See also: Business continuity planning
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The WWW Virtual Library: Hazards and Risk
Natural and man-made disasters, preparedness, impacts, and mitigation.
Disaster Research Center
Online publications, data, bibliographies, and other information relevant to the sociology of disasters.
Links to websites about volcanos, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, hurricanes, thunderstorms, and floods.
Natural Disasters and Catastrophes
About the causes, consequences and costs (if appropriate) of natural disasters and catastrophes. Includes specific commentary, features and statistics on a variety of subjects (i.e. volcanic activity) and a regularly updated listing of world-wide natural disasters effective January 1999.
ReliefWeb: Natural Disasters
Archived information, from 1981 to the present, about major natural disasters, including floods, droughts, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and cyclones, focussing on international humanitarian relief efforts. From the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Natural Disaster Management in India
Government Department of Agriculture and Cooperation information resource, including reports on recent and current disasters and information on management initiatives.
Hot Topics: Disasters
New Scientist news and articles on some of the most feared natural disasters: fires, quakes, megafloods, tsunamis, meteors, mass extinctions.
CBS News Disaster Links
Information about a variety of manmade and natural disaster-related websites. Quick reference and access to realtime data.
Provides information on coastal natural hazards (such as hurricanes and shoreline erosion), hazard planning, and things that can be done to reduce personal and economic losses. From U.S. National Sea Grant College Program.
Forces of Nature
Educational information about natural phenomena and different natural disasters. Includes information about the causes of disasters as well as lists of the worst recorded type of each disaster.
The Disaster Files
Repository of summaries, statistics, links and articles about natural (and some man-made) disasters including earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, epidemics, air crashes, explosions and volcanic eruptions.
A Procedure to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Two Watch Warning Systems
Notes from this workshop on the effectiveness of heat related health watch systems.
Urban Survival Tools
Natural disaster information, probability, statistics links and other information. Also provides survival kits and other survival products
American Experience: Fatal Flood
Companion site to the PBS documentary about the 1927 flooding of the Mississippi River. Includes timeline, maps, profiles of people and events, teacher's guide, and info about the film.
Cyclone of 1896 St. Louis, Missouri
Photographic views of damage caused by cyclone of May 27, 1896.
Eyewitness to Disaster: California Earthquakes
Collection of eyewitness accounts, humor, and pictures of historic California earthquakes.
Largest Earthquakes in the United States
Maps and statistics from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Why the US Is Becoming More Vulnerable to Natural Disasters
Despite increases in what we know about natural disasters and how to protect ourselves against them, population growth continues along the coasts, where loss of life and property from these disasters are greatest.
National Climatic Data Center
Severe weather records and natural disaster links.
Societal Aspects of Weather
Organization which measures the impact of weather on people.
Storm database with records of US storms and tornados by county.