Geography

Coastal flooding

Coastal regions are particularly vulnerable to flooding. The impacts on coastal communities can be devastating, as seen in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina

The path of Hurricane Katrina

The path of Hurricane Katrina

Impacts

  • Katrina was a category 4 storm.
  • Storm surges [storm surge: Where the water in the ocean rises rapidly because of low air pressure. This water is pushed towards the shore by the wind. ] reached over 6 metres in height.
  • New Orleans was one of the worst affected areas because it is below sea level and protected by levees [levee: Ridges or banks formed by deposits of alluvium left behind by the periodic flooding of rivers. Can also be artificially constructed banks or walls. ]. The defences were unable to cope with the strength of Katrina.
  • Despite an evacuation order, many of the poorest people remained in the city.
  • People sought refuge in the Superdome stadium. Conditions were unhygienic, and there was a shortage of food and water. Looting [looting: A term which refers to stealing from unguarded homes or businesses. ] was commonplace throughout the city. Tension was high and many felt vulnerable and unsafe.
  • 1 million people were made homeless and about 1,200 people drowned in the floods.
  • Oil facilities were damaged and as a result petrol prices rose in the UK and USA.

Responses

Flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 2005

Flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 2005

There was much criticism of the authorities for their handling of the disaster.

Although many people were evacuated, it was a slow process and the poorest and most vulnerable were left behind.

$50 billion in aid was given by the government.

The UK government sent food aid during the early stages of the recovery process.

The National Guard was mobilised to restore and maintain law and order in what became a hostile and unsafe living environment.

Case study: coping with flooding in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is an LEDC. The land is densely populated [densely populated: Where the number of people per square kilometre is high. ]. Most of the land forms a delta [delta: A landform formed at the mouth of a river. ] from three main rivers - Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Twenty-five per cent of Bangladesh is less than 1 metre above sea level. Flooding is an annual event as the rivers burst their banks. Bangladesh also experiences many tropical cyclones [tropical storm: A low pressure system in the tropical latitudes which has high winds and rainfall. Can be called a cyclone or hurricane. ]. The low-lying land means it is easily flooded from the coastal waters.

Map of Bangladesh showing the main rivers

Map of Bangladesh showing the main rivers

Advantages to living in Bangladesh

  • The flat floodplains of the delta are very fertile [fertile: A soil which is rich in nutrients. ].
  • Rice is grown.

Disadvantages to living in Bangladesh

  • The low-lying islands are very vulnerable. They get flooded easily. It is difficult to protect them.
  • There are poor communications - many locals do not own their own telephone or television. It is difficult to get flood warnings out.

How can the risk of flooding be reduced?

Rice farmer in Bangladesh

Rice farmer in Bangladesh

  • Bangladesh is an LEDC - it therefore does not have money to implement large schemes.
  • It is always going to be threatened with flooding, so the focus is on reducing the impact.
  • The Flood Action Plan is funded by the World Bank. It funds projects to monitor flood levels, and construct flood banks/artificial levees [levee: Ridges or banks formed by deposits of alluvium left behind by the periodic flooding of rivers. Can also be artificially constructed banks or walls. ].
  • More sustainable ways of reducing the flooding include building coastal flood shelters on stilts and early warning systems.

Case study: Cyclone Nargis

Cyclone Nargis happened in May 2008. Little warning was given. Winds of 200 km per hour and the low pressure created a storm surge [storm surge: Where the water in the ocean rises rapidly because of low air pressure. This water is pushed towards the shore by the wind. ], measuring 6.3 metres high. It mainly affected Myanmar (Burma) a country south west of Bangladesh.

Aerial view of the after effects of Cyclone Nargis

Aerial view of the after effects of Cyclone Nargis

Crops were destroyed (a lot of rice is grown here) and the shrimp fishing industry was damaged. Areas were left without water, food and electricity. The UN suggest that nearly 200,000 people died.

Case Card

 

CycloneCyclone Nargis
OriginBay of Bengal
LandfallBurma, an LEDC near Bangladesh
WhenMay 2008
Weather

Storm surge of 6.3m

Winds of 200 km/hour

Damage

200,000 died / unaccounted for

Destroyed rice and shrimp industry

Back to Revision Bite