Cover Story

Disaster strikes

Issue: "Year in Review 1999," Jan. 8, 2000

The numbers are staggering: Earthquakes in Turkey killed 18,000. In Taiwan, Colombia, and Greece, tremors resulted in the deaths of 3,600. On India's densely populated east coast, a cyclone killed 10,000 and left 2.5 million homeless. In Adapazari, Turkey, Mehmet Bilge surveyed the damage. "Outside it looks OK, right?" he told WORLD of his own family's summer home. "Only problem: That is the second floor. The first floor is"-he smacks his hands together-"gone." In the U.S. or abroad, stories about such disasters are loaded with references to God, His power, and, occasionally, His mercy. "We said a prayer that God would watch over us."
-Oklahoma City resident Sherrie Conley, explaining how she, her husband, and two sons had huddled in their hallway linen closet for protection from a tornado that killed 41 people in May. "What else can I do? He knows why He done this-and He could do it again if He wanted to."
-Calvin Gunter, a resident of water-swollen eastern North Carolina, after he was wiped out by Hurricane Floyd's flooding that was by most accounts the worst natural disaster ever to strike the state. Hurricane Floyd destroyed or damaged 12,000 homes and caused more than $6 billion in damage in North Carolina alone when it hit the coast in September. "Shade is a gift from God.... When a breeze comes along, you embrace it."
-Carolyn Heinlein, during the heat wave that struck the East this summer. Throughout much of the East and Midwest, drought conditions threatened crops and lives as temperatures persisted in the triple digits. About 100 people perished from heat-related ailments.

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