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The Natural Disasters to be Most Fearful of in China

From a historical perspective, China is certainly not immune from the scourge of natural disasters. Here Pacific Prime takes a look at the disasters you should be most aware of, as they are the most likely to occur in the country.

Posted on May 18, 2015 by Travis Jones


Update - July 14th, 2016: Perhaps as a response to recent flooding and landslides in China, this page has seen a rise in popularity. If you would like to inform yourself on actions being taken to help those in need, or perhaps make a donation to aid in the relief effort, please have a look at the Red Cross Society of China's homepage. Thank you.

The 2015 Gorkha earthquake was the most powerful natural disaster to strike Nepal and its surrounding areas in nearly 100 years. At least 7,000 fatalities have been recorded thus far, and health care and rebuilding efforts are expected to continue for months and perhaps even years.

In the wake of a disaster of this magnitude, people all around the world are asking – what catastrophes could affect me?

Many people might not know that of the 10 most deadly natural disasters ever recorded, five occurred in China. Regions throughout China are prone to flooding and earthquakes. The 1976 earthquake in Tangshan, China was responsible for killing around half a million, and floods in 1931 across the nation wiped out an estimated 4 million.

Of course, modern Chinese infrastructure is less prone to flooding than it was in 1931 – and yet every year certain regions in China (particularly those set along coastal deltas and rivers) grapple with heavy rains and subsequent flooding.

 Flooding in China

Flooding in Shanghai can be particularly calamitous. Due to its heavy rains, position on a coastal delta and large amount of residents living on the coastline, Shanghai was ranked by the UK’s Coastal City Flood Vulnerability Index as the city ‘most vulnerable to flood risk’ in the world. In 2013 the highest rainfall in half a century flooded more than 600 households in Shanghai, disrupted transportation and even killed two people who were electrocuted while trying to walk through a flooded area. Many residents also remember a series of typhoons in the summer of 2005 that killed more than 100 people in Eastern China, causing Shanghai and other cities to implement widespread evacuation plans

Unfortunately, research has shown that Shanghai’s flood risk is not only bad, but growing – and will continue to do so due to global warming causing stronger storms. Many analysts also say that there is a serious need for more investment into flood protection measures including storm walls, flood shelters and tighter building regulations.

Until Shanghai takes these protective measures, residents and frequent visitors to the city must be prepared to take independent precautions to stay as safe and healthy as possible in the event of flooding. When the typhoon signal is raised, keep an appropriate store of canned food and fresh water on hand – but avoid hoarding, which puts everyone in the neighborhood at a disadvantage. Follow proper flood safety precautions: get to higher ground, do not attempt to walk or drive through flooded streets, turn off the main power switch in your home and wash hands with soap and water if they come into contact with floodwaters, as harmful bacteria may be present. Flood insurance can protect you from property loss due to flooding, and a health insurance policy will ensure easy and quick access to a doctor if you experience accident or injury related to a flood. Expats or visitors who spend a large amount of time in flood-prone areas may also prefer to hold an international health insurance policy with evacuation and expatriation insurance – that way if the disaster becomes life-threatening, it’s possible for the policy-holder to receive free transportation and assistance to a safe location.

Apart from floods, Shanghai is also at risk of contagious disease – a very deadly kind of natural disaster. Health care pandemics are a threat in many places, but Asia’s largest cities including Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai are at particular risk due to large urban populations, residents who live in close quarters with one another and what some would call a lack of health and safety oversight in some industrial sectors. The SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) pandemic of 2002 and 2003 killed nearly 800 people in China and Hong Kong, and since then Shanghai has also grappled with bird flu and swine flu. These viruses spread quickly and easily from person to person, causing fever, vomiting and even death.

To protect yourself from a pandemic disease disaster while in China, it’s important to hold a health insurance policy that provides some key emergency services, including: hospitalization, visitation with a disease specialist, medication and follow-up health care visits. Primary care is essential to maintain a healthy immune system – the best preventative measure in protecting yourself from disease. If you’re considering a global insurance plan, make sure to find one that offers regular visits to a primary care physician, and has an accessible network of doctors available. Some travellers or expats may also wish to hold a health or travel insurance policy with evacuation and repatriation coverage so that if they do contract a life-threatening disease – or if they are travelling in a region of China without modern health care services – it will be possible to get to a first-rate health care facility.

China natural disaster

An international health insurance policy can also prove useful in case of earthquake. Travellers, expats or any other temporary resident can rely on an international health insurance policy for medical evacuation, ambulance costs or repatriation of remains (but be sure to check your policy for details, limits and exclusions). Health insurance holders injured in the tragic 25th April quake in Nepal were no doubt thankful to be in possession of their policies, and some analysts are predicting that in the wake of this earthquake more travellers and, perhaps most importantly, local Nepalese will think seriously about purchasing health insurance.

China has a huge network of fault lines running across the country, with cities in the southwest and Beijing being at the highest risk for an earthquake. Last year more than 300 people in Yunnan province were killed when a magnitude 6.1 quake struck the city. In 2008 an earthquake in the nearby Sichuan region killed around 80,000 people – a striking death toll that highlights the dangers of earthquakes in China, where a large network of fault lines combined with poverty, crowded cities and lax building codes can make earthquakes truly disastrous.

China’s history of deadly earthquakes prompts many people who travel to the region often for business or pleasure to purchase an international health insurance policy. Although travel insurance provides adequate coverage in case of an emergency, frequent travellers often prefer to hold an international health policy offering continuous coverage and a broader range of services, including non-emergency health care abroad such as doctor’s visits, medication, a fuller scope of primary care and so on. In an earthquake, global insurance can assist in leaving the area or getting treatment at a hospital. Holding global health coverage will often also provide reimbursement if travel plans are interrupted by an earthquake or other natural disaster.

The tragic earthquake in Nepal serves as an important reminder that natural disasters are difficult, if not impossible, to predict. It is essential to respond proactively, before a disaster occurs – by understanding the risks inherent to the area in which you live, learning about nearby safety zones and the best means of protection during a disaster, and looking after your health before and after such a situation with proper medical care and a health insurance policy that allows that care to be accessed easily and affordably.

For comparisons of an array of such health insurance policies, please contact Pacific Prime. Our helpful and knowledgeable agents are standing by to answer all your insurance questions, find you the best plans for needs from the world’s best insurers, and give you a free quote.

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