You’ve got to hand it to Mother Nature; she’s a force to be reckoned with. She can be your closest friend on your travels, or she can ruin your best-laid plans. Her unpredictability is the worst thing. One minute you’re having the time of your life, exploring gorgeous waterfalls, beaches, mountains or even the concrete jungles, and the next, all your plans are thrown into disarray.
Having travel insurance during natural disasters can at least help so that you don’t waste a whole lot of money by rearranging your transport. If chaotic weather or worse, a full-on natural disaster affects your mode of transport, you may be reimbursed for the cost of reasonable additional travel and accommodation expenses.
Earthquakes are frightening and humbling. The scale of them is awe-inspiring and the damage they can cause is incalculable. Lucky for you, you won’t be hanging around long enough to pick up the pieces, as it were, but unfortunately for you, your travel plans will likely be affected. First of all, when the ground moves, it can all but destroy airport tarmacs, leaving plane departures in disarray. Same goes for train tracks and of course, with earthquakes, often come tsunamis so the ocean can be a no-go zone too.
Whatever it takes to get you out of there, you’ll probably have to accept what you can get and if you have to pay for unexpected accommodation or to reschedule your transportation out of the earthquake zone, then your travel insurance will likely come into play. Often, during natural disasters of such magnitude, contingency plans are put in place by the local authorities and aid organisations to help move non-locals out. Obviously the fewer people around that don’t need to be there, the better the chances of rescue, recovery, repair and rebuilding.
Incidentally, if you are caught in an earthquake, you will fare better if you have prepared for one. When you check into your hotel, identify where you would hide if the building starts to shake. Under a mattress, away from external walls and glass (including mirrors) is a good idea. Familiarise yourself with fire exits and stairwells in advance. Never try to leave the building while it is still shaking and use your mobile phone for lighting. Never use a match or lighter, just in case there is a gas leak. If you are outside when the earthquake begins, move away from buildings, street lighting and overhead power lines and get off bridges.
Imagine if you were in New Orleans or surrounding areas when Hurricane Katrina hit. That was a natural disaster of epic proportions! Even Hollywood couldn’t have written the script that played out back in 2005. It was the costliest natural disaster in United States’ history and in the top five deadliest hurricanes the country had experienced.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan – AKA Super Typhoon Yolanda – struck the Philippines. With at least 6,300 people dead, it was the country’s deadliest typhoon on record. Two years later, Tropical Cyclone Pam devastated the tiny nation of Vanuatu, one of its regions poorest.
When raging storms – and don’t forget tornadoes – bring down power lines, cut roads and throw debris around like toys, you can be sure you’ll want to get out of there as soon as possible. Initially, communications may be somewhat difficult and haphazard but there will usually be aid authorities around to assist locals and visitors alike. Your first priority will be to take the transportation options available to you and once you reach your next destination, or return home, you can get around to submitting a claim.
- Prepare with your travelling companions what the plan should be if you are separated during a natural disaster. Decide how you will maintain communication, where you will meet and who should be contacted.
- In preparedness for storms, cyclones, hurricanes and tornadoes, seek adequate shelter such as in your hotel’s basement or ballroom. If you are staying in less sturdy accommodation, ask someone in charge where the nearest safe shelter is located and go there as soon as possible.
- When an earthquake strikes, you obviously cannot prepare in advance. However, knowing that you are travelling to an earthquake-prone destination, you can take steps to ensure you can be accounted for in the event that one does occur. Always register with the Australian embassy in the destination country. You can also register for updates about the country you’re going to on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
- Wherever you are going, add to your phone contacts some important numbers you may need in the event of a natural disaster. This includes local emergency numbers, your embassy contact information and also list your next of kin under ‘ICE’ (In Case of Emergency) so that if your phone is found and you are unable to speak, someone could look up who to call on your behalf.
- Never drink non-bottled water after a natural disaster.
- Be aware of local cultural considerations during and following a natural disaster. When emotions are intensely heightened, you don’t want to behave in any way that could be deemed offensive. That said, people most frequently band together at such times and are grateful for human outreach.
One of the things that draws people to visit other countries is the infinite possibility of what they may find, learn and see. Natural disasters are not on anyone’s bucket list but it’s important to understand that anything can happen and if it does, you will be in an unfamiliar land.
Travel insurance during natural disasters is a comfort and can spare you grief, stress and money. Do your homework and make sure you know what you’re covered for so you can act with confidence if disaster strikes.