Prepare for the next horror that surely will come

Prepare for the next horror that surely will come

"Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall; And universal Darkness buries All."

Thus concludes Alexander Pope's The Dunciad.

Written in the early 18th century, the three-book poem follows the progress of the goddess Dulness as her minions bring destruction, decay and bestiality to the land.

Perhaps Dulness was in full cry over the predominantly Catholic Philippines last week. How else but allegory to make sense of the malevolent power that laid waste to several provinces in this South-east Asian nation, and brought looting and violence in its aftermath. At last count, the projected death toll was nudging 5,000.

And yet it is not a surprise.

About 250 million people worldwide are affected by natural disasters every year. Developing countries account for 99 per cent of the deaths and 90 per cent of the economic losses, according to estimates by the World Economic Forum in Geneva.

Asia should pay heed because the worst natural disasters of the past 100 years have been mostly in this region, with some exceptions such as the 2010 earthquake that flattened Haiti's capital.

"April," T.S. Eliot famously wrote in The Waste Land, "is the cruelest month."

Not in this part of the world, where disasters tend to strike later in the year when the seas are angry and the monsoon waxes and wanes. The 2004 tsunami struck in December, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake that killed 75,000 was in October.

This year, Asia has had two major weather-related catastrophes - the multi-day cloudburst in June over the northern Indian hill state of Uttarakhand that killed more than 5,000 and now, Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

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