TRIPS HAS ALREADY introduced you to America’s Most Dangerous Neighborhoods, rankings that were based on crime statistics.
Sometimes, though, people don’t need to go out of their way to imperil the lives of those around them. Mother Nature’s pretty good at that, too.
Popularmechanics.com takes up the issue with 8 of the Most Dangerous Places (To Live) on the Planet — human habitations facing very real threats from volcanoes, killer storms, desertification, and more.
Here’s what they got:
Mt. Merapi, Java
This active volcano’s constant smoke belching is a tipoff — it’s averaged 12 eruptions per century over the last 500 years. Still, 200,000 people live within an ominously short four miles of “Fire Mountain.”
And they’re not alone. The article claims as many as 120 million Javanese reside inside the danger zones of the island’s 22 active volcanoes.
Central Africa’s Lake Kivu is on the list as well due to the region’s seismic-volcanic instability that threatens to unleash trillions of cubic feet of poison gases trapped beneath the lakebed.
This phenomenon isn’t confined to Asia, either. For months in 2008-9, southern Chile’s Chaitén volcano blew its top. Residents of nearby Esquel, Argentina, where I volunteered earlier this year, tell of a months-long period of ash-mud raining from the sky and the necessity of HazMat suits whenever stepping outside.
Still, a handful of residents in the town of Chaitén have refused to leave.
With an elevation peak of six feet above sea level, the 1,190 islands of the Maldives are demonstrating the effects of climate change today.
The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami rendered 10% of the nation’s land area uninhabitable, and since then local leaders have been hammering out plans to relocate the entire Maldivian population.
The islands are still considered a beach-bum hot spot, but you’d better hurry if you want to catch a glimpse before they literally vanish.
Other potential casualties of global climate change are places already at high risk of violent storms.
That obviously includes the Cayman Islands’ Grand Cayman, otherwise known as the “hurricane capital of the world.”
For proof, you need look no further back than 2004, when Hurricane Ivan destroyed 70% of the buildings on the island and left 40,000 residents with zero power and clean water.
The Haitian city of Gonaïves also makes the list for its recent streak of hurricane bad luck, and Oklahoma‘s I-44 “tornado corridor” gets a nod as well.
Long-time favorite exile spot for Russian czars and Soviet premiers alike, the Arctic town of Verkhoyansk is officially the world’s coldest, a distinction that carries its own terminology: the “Pole of Cold.”
The record-low temperature was mercuried over 100 years ago (long before meteorologists thought up the concept of wind chill): -90F/-68C.
Minqin County, China
Drought, water diversion, and a position directly between the encroaching Tengger and Badain Jaran Deserts likely spells annihilation for this section of China’s Gansu province.
The national government has been making efforts to relocate farmers to greener pastures, but the area’s population is swelling, now at 2+ million.
Have you been to any of these or other “days-are-numbered” destinations? Did you get any insight into why their inhabitants continue to live where they do? Share your stories in the comments.
Here are some more titles for your “most dangerous” fix: