BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
World 
Africa 
Americas 
Asia-Pacific 
Europe 
Middle East 
South Asia 
-------------
From Our Own Correspondent 
-------------
Letter From America 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Monday, 15 January, 2001, 15:18 GMT
Central America: Disaster zone

Wars, floods, volcanic eruptions and now a major earthquake - it seems that time in Central America is measured by disasters.

At least as far as earthquakes are concerned, the region is particularly prone.

It lies on the edge of the gigantic pacific plate, on the infamous 'ring of fire' - an arc of plate boundaries encircling the Pacific Ocean.

The boundaries of the Pacific plate are very unstable, causing earthquakes and volcanic activity along the west coast of the Americas as well as east Asia.


At their boundaries, the plates move against each other, creating massive pressures. These pressure gradually build up until finally there is a sudden movement.

In this case the Cocos plate and the Caribbean plate are moving towards each other and one is being subducted (forced underneath) the other.

Central America is also home to a chain of active volcanos that stretch from Mexico City all the way down the isthmus.

According to seismologists, the volcanic geological patterns mean the effect of earthquakes is more destructive than might otherwise be the case.

But it is not just geological disasters that hit here - floods are also common.

Human culprits

Hurricane Mitch struck in November 1998, killing 9,000 people.

Children in Honduras
Mitch caused misery across the region
Since then periods of heavy rain have impeded reconstruction work.

Nature is not the only culprit. Man-made problems exacerbate the impact of natural disasters.

Intensive farming and deforestation of the region's steep hillsides mean the land is unstable and prone to slipping.

And dense concentrations of people and poor construction methods all make the casualty toll far higher than in less populated places.

Central America is vulnerable to nature's whims but man does not help.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

30 Mar 99 | Medical notes
Natural disasters
10 Jun 99 | debt
Case study: Central America
Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories