Visions of Horror, Glimmers of Hope

“ALL AROUND ME BUILDINGS WERE ROCKING AND FLAMES SHOOTING. AS I RAN PEOPLE ON ALL SIDES WERE CRYING, PRAYING AND CALLING FOR HELP. I THOUGHT THE END OF THE WORLD HAD COME.”​—G. R., EARTHQUAKE SURVIVOR.

EACH year millions of earthquakes rumble through the crust of our restless planet. Of course, most of these cannot be felt. * Still, on average, nearly 140 earthquakes a year are serious enough to be labeled “strong,” “major,” or “great.” Throughout history, these have caused millions of deaths and an incalculable amount of property damage.

Earthquakes also exact a profound emotional toll on survivors. For example, after two earthquakes rocked El Salvador early in 2001, the coordinator of the mental-health advisory committee of that country’s health ministry stated: “People are entering a phase of psychological problems characterized by sadness, despair and anger.” Not surprisingly, health workers in El Salvador reported a 73-percent increase in the number of patients suffering from depression and anxiety. In fact, surveys indicated that among the needs of those in relief camps, mental-health attention ran second only to the need for water.

But the story of earthquakes involves more than death, destruction, and despondency. In many cases, these disasters have moved people to demonstrate extraordinary goodwill and self-sacrifice. Indeed, some have worked tirelessly to repair damaged structures and rebuild shattered lives. Such glimmers of hope have shone through even the grimmest visions of horror, as we will see.

[Footnote]

^ par. 3 This includes very minor earthquakes, thousands of which occur each day.

 [Pictures on page 2, 3]

Pages 2 and 3: In Athens, Greece, a distraught young woman realizes that her mother is trapped inside a collapsed building. Meanwhile, a father is elated to find that his five-year-old daughter has been rescued

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AP Photos/Dimitri Messinis