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A disaster may simply be termed as an event that entails the damage, loss and destruction of life and property at a catastrophic level. It is differentiated from a hazard on the basis of the intensity of loss to people, economic assets and structures. Thus, in simple terms, a disaster is a hazard of calamitous nature. This, in turn, is dependent on several factors such as geographical location, population, climate and the type of the earth surface/degree of vulnerability. The word disaster comes from astrology; when the stars are not aligned in a favourable position, a bad event is expected to occur. The word originates from the Middle French désastre, from Old Italian disastro and from the Greek pejorative prefix dis—bad + aster—star.

The main features of a disaster are:

  • Unpredictability
  • Unfamiliarity