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1. The French news agency, Reuters, has dubbed the decade 1994-2003, the Decade of Disasters.
• From 1994 to 2003, 5,677 reported disasters killed 673,070 people and affected 2.58 billion people, causing $691 billion in estimated damage.
• That compares with 1,021,605 reported killed and 1.63 billion reported affected by disasters from 1984 to 1993.
• In 2003, 76,806 were reported killed by disasters – three times higher than the 2002 figure. Disasters affected 255 million people during the year, inflicting estimated damage of at least $56 billion.
• Deadliest disasters (1994-2003): drought/famine (48 percent), floods (16 percent), earthquakes (16 percent), windstorms (10 percent), extreme temperatures (eight percent), other (two percent).
2. Next Sunday will be the 4th anniversary of the horror and devastation caused by the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC and we will remember again the thousands of lives lost, how radically our world changed, and how life for every human being on earth has never been and will never be the same since.
3. This past December 26, the 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Indonesia, the world’s most powerful in over 40 years, causing the entire planet to vibrate at least a few centimeters, brought horrendous death and destruction to more than 150,000 in various Indian Ocean countries.
4. And with barely enough time to catch our breath, now we have to deal with another major catastrophe of Biblical proportions that has already wiped out the lives of hundreds and completely destroyed or disrupted the livelihood and belongings of millions all along the Gulf Coast
5. On a more personal note Linda Beth Neustifter, wife of one of our United Methodist pastors, Tim Neustifter, whom I know from my years of ministry in New Mexico, writes from Lafayette, LA, “Our church is housing displaced people, and the Cajundome (not quite as big as the Superdome) in Lafayette is now housing families with no place to go. These families have no food, water, money, or clothing. Most no longer have homes or jobs to go back to. Therefore, they have no paychecks coming in to provide for basic necessities.
Looking at the aerial pictures of New Orleans, I can identify areas where UM churches and parsonages are completely submerged. There are approx. 50 UM churches in the New Orleans area and many others in outlying areas with extensive damage. From a conference perspective, that means pastors who no longer have homes/church buildings (or paychecks.) There will probably be churches that can’t follow through on their apportionment commitments. Most church members will be without homes or jobs themselves.”
6. We’ve all heard the even more horrifying news of the additional chaos and mayhem being caused by looters, rapists, and murderers further aggravating the misery and suffering of those still waiting for rescue and medical attention.
7. Medical and other disaster control experts are already warning of additional hazards to be dealt with in the days and weeks ahead including outbreaks of cholera, hepatitis, a variety of gastro-intestinal diseases and major infections being caused from wading though water polluted with toxic contaminants including human feces, rotting human and animal carcasses, gasoline and
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