Life in Maun, Botswana, on the edge of the Okavango Swamps was certainly conducive to Off-the-Grid living, due to its isolation rather than any conviction that global warming, earth polar reversal, or planet alignment, might spell the End of Days.
On 26th January 1999,an earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter Scale shook western Columbia. The collapsing buildings killed hundreds, the deathtoll rising to over 940. The looting that broke out was finally curbed by the military.
Early February was savage, too, when an avalanche in Chamonix, France, wiped out two villages, Cyclone Rona hit Queensland, and Afghanistan suffered another severe quake. The worst snow blizzards swept Hungary, taking more than 15 lives. More avalanches in the Alps buried 50 people.
In South America, and even in Africa, the odd volcano started spitting. At the end of March a Himalayan 6.8 earthquake killed more than 60. In early May, tornadoes were ripping Oklahoma and Kansas up with 45 dead, hundreds injured and thousands homeless. A 6.8 quake hit the town of Peubla, near Mexico City.
August kicked off with Typhoon Olga flooding the Phillipines, Taiwan and Korea with winds up to 130km per hour, while a heatwave in the USA killed 200. Then the shaking began. A 5.0 shook Crete. A 6.7 whacked Turkey with 4000 casualties and 30,000 unaccounted for. There was a 5.0 in the USA, a 6.7 hit Costa Rica, a 5.5 wobbled Japan. Typhoon Sam took out a plane landing at the new airport in Singapore; 50 dead, 200 wounded.
September followed up with Mt Etna popping its top in Sicily, but no casualties. Then Athens was shaken by a 5.9, killing 79 people. A 7.8 whacked Taiwan followed by aftershocks of up to 6.8 and a deathtoll of more than 1700. A 7.5 in northern Mexico headed south, but swerved to bypass Mexico City, avoiding a huge loss of life. However, huge downpours caused mudslides in central Mexico, burying buildings and more than 50 people.
The last three months of the year were a little quieter, except for a 5.4 in Turkey off the coast of Marmara which killed 10, and several big quakes on the North Anatolian Fault line where the deathtoll climbed to over 400. A typhoon hit Orissa, India, where eventually 4500 died, with disease and hunger killing more. More than 400 died in Vietnam as a result of flooding.
So, why this litany of disaster, you may ask?
Well, it certainly gave the Preppers the ammo to persuade the Skeptics that the End of Times prophesied for the millennium, or Y2K, was imminent. That the world as we know it was really teetering on the brink of extinction.
When it didn’t happen, the Skeptics gave a shaky laugh. The Preppers shrugged and started hoarding for 2012.