News Mash-up: Natural Disasters

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. swath / swɒθ / (n) – a long, wide area of land

    The fire destroyed large swaths of the forest.

  2. envelop / ɛnˈvɛl əp / (v) – to completely cover or surround something

    When it rains, clouds envelop the mountaintop.

  3. snarl / snɑrl / (v) – to cause something to become so mixed up that it’s unable to move

    The car accident snarled traffic on the road for more than an hour.

  4. visibility / ˌvɪz əˈbɪl ɪ ti / (n) – the state of being able to see or be seen

    The snowstorm caused poor visibility for motorists.

  5. lava / ˈlɑ və / (n) – melted rock that flows out of a volcano

    The lava is beautiful, but you shouldn’t get too close to it.


Read the text below.

China hit by worst sandstorm in a decade

China’s capital and a wide swath of the country’s north were enveloped March 15 in the worst sandstorm in a decade, forcing the cancelation of hundreds of flights.

Skyscrapers in the center of Beijing appeared to drop from sight amid the dust and sand. Traffic was snarled and more than 400 flights out of the capital’s two main airports were canceled amid high winds and low visibility.

The National Meteorological Center said the storm had developed in the Gobi Desert in the Inner Mongolia Region. (AP)

Volcano erupts near Iceland’s capital

A volcano erupted near Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, on March 19, shooting lava high into the night sky after thousands of small earthquakes in the weeks before.

The eruption occurred near Fagradalsfjall, a mountain on the Reykjanes Peninsula, around 30 km southwest of the capital.

Some four hours after the initial eruption — the first on the peninsula since the 12th century — lava covered about 1 square kilometer, or nearly 200 soccer fields.

More than 40,000 earthquakes have occurred on the peninsula in the past four weeks. (Reuters)

These articles were provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The sandstorm snarled traffic and caused hundreds of flights to be canceled. Were you surprised to hear how much it affected daily life? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Some four hours after the initial eruption, lava covered about 1 square kilometer. Do you think it’s a good idea to build homes and businesses near volcanoes? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Do you think that scientists will be able to predict volcanic eruptions, storms, and other natural disasters with 100% accuracy in the future? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • In your area, what type of natural disaster poses the biggest risk to humans (ex. floods, typhoons)? Why? Discuss.
  • What kind of preparations should be done for natural disasters (ex. stocking canned food, planning escape routes)? Why? Discuss.
  • Do you think most people are properly prepared for a natural disaster? Why or why not? Discuss.