5 Unsung Superheroes Who Rose Up During Natural Disasters

When disaster strikes, we turn to our first responders: firefighters, aid workers, those hard-to-understand legends in the Cajun Navy. Heroes come in many forms. But there are plenty of other do-gooders who emerge in less-expected ways, performing feats that deserve just as many free beers and back-pats as rescuing a stranded kitten from a tree. For example ...

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Zookeepers Stay Behind In Disaster Zones To Keep The Animals Alive

Good zookeepers don't load up the minivan and buzz off to safer climes when calamity strikes. They use their training and no small amount of improvised ingenuity to help their animal friends weather the storm. That can mean cramming a flock of flamingos into a public restroom, sleeping on a cot right alongside an animal, or letting predators crash on their own couches.

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Zookeepers aren't only looking out for the animals; they're looking out for us too. Just look at what happened during the 2015 floods in Tbilisi, Georgia, which caused hundreds of zoo animals to break free from their cages. One white tiger fucking ate somebody. The end result was further catastrophe. Police had to gun down dozens of exotic species in the aftermath. More experienced zookeepers from Prague were shipped in to dig all the dead animals out of the mud.

So three cheers for our brave boys and girls in beige, sparing us all from having to witness a koala take a headshot from a SWAT sniper.

Related: 6 Normal People Who Turned Into Action Heroes Out Of Nowhere

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A Former Japanese Politician Is A One-Man Disaster Relief Team

Because Mother Nature and her son Godzilla clearly don't think Japan should have any buildings, the country is constantly beset by earthquakes. One of the worst instances occurred in 1995, when the city of Kobe was turned into a pile of debris ... which then caught on fire. Seeing the devastation, Tokyo city councilman Seiji Yoshimura, a rising star in the Japanese government, was inspired to toss tradition in the trash and actually help some people for a change.

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Yoshimura loaded up his truck with two enormous cauldrons, drove straight to Kobe, and started cooking meals for victims. And when he wasn't filling empty stomachs, he spent his time assisting with search and rescue efforts. And when that was done, he picked up a hammer and started rebuilding homes.

Takehiko Kambayashi/The Christian Science Monitor"I don't know, the superhero pose kinda just happened."

A talented politician who drives into disaster areas and doesn't leave until the job is done? How is Yoshimura not already president for life of the entire Universe? Well, after Kobe, he decided to quit politics and instead dedicate his life to disaster relief.

Not that he's wanting for jobs or skills to put on his resume. When rescuers needed help clearing debris to reach survivors, he learned logging techniques so that he could operate the heavy machinery. And when a local firefighting service was overwhelmed, he became a volunteer firefighter to help coordinate civilian efforts with local authorities. It seems that the only thing Yoshimura can't do is to stop being awesome.

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Related: 6 Awesome Stories Of Bystanders Becoming Heroes

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A Louisiana Law Firm Stuck Around To Help Katrina Victims With Paperwork

As soon as their penny loafers dried out after Hurricane Katrina, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services looked at the shallow pond that was once New Orleans and thought, "Huh. Maybe we should help." So they headed to Goodwill to pick up some suitable court galoshes and started providing legal aid to survivors, ranging from helping them navigate the labyrinthine can of worms that is the Federal Emergency Management Agency to replacing essential documents (paper has a habit of performing poorly while underwater).

Katrina survivors also needed help protecting themselves from unscrupulous landlords trying to evict them, and unscrupulous contractors trying to scam them out of what money they had left. Luckily, the SLLS already had a long history of helping people on the lower rungs of society. Bringing in every lawyer they could find (and even law students from out of state), they got to work providing assistance to anyone in need, for as long as needed -- which is now blooming into a recognized cornerstone of effective disaster relief.

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Seeing the SLLS's efforts, the U.S. government had no choice but to recognize its own failings. So to prevent this kind of bureaucratic nightmare from ever affecting its poor citizens again (and after holding long hearings, interviewing experts in disaster relief, then debating the best possible way to meet any future challenges), America's duly elected representatives finally decided to ... enact zero changes and keep on doing the same sloppy work. Hey, guess this finally answers the question of whether lawyers or politicians deserve more hate.

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Related: 7 Heroes Of History's Darkest Nightmares Who Deserve Movies

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Volunteer Architects Stay Put To Rebuild Devastated Communities

While plenty of architects spend their lives designing lavish skyscrapers and starring in bad rom-coms, some focus on undoing the lasting damage caused by natural disasters. Thousands of people can be left homeless after a major calamity, and that's why Eric Cesal founded Architects for Humanity, to help people rebuild in the long term. Cesal describes them as "last responders," which is a much cooler title than "building builders," as we've been calling them.

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When AFH come in, they're in it for the long run. Because it's not just about repairing a few doors; it's about healing and protecting entire communities, which can take years. And since most disasters are in ... disaster-prone areas (go figure?), AFH takes further measures to educate populations on mitigating future disasters, all while suppressing their architectural instinct to shout, "Stop living on a goddamn fault line!"

Related: 6 Nobodies Who Turned Into Superheroes Without Warning

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Celebrity Chef Jose Andres Feed Entire Cities After Disasters

Culinary geeks may know Jose Andres as the guy responsible for the small plates phenomenon, but disaster victims know him as the man with the big plates -- the only plates around, actually. In 2011, he established a nonprofit association of chefs called World Central Kitchen. In 2017, when Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria and the government figured it had better things to do than help, Andres set up a private charity, mobilizing a team that could provide fresh food to the victims, which was "more than what the government could offer."

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Once there, Andres and his League of Extraordinary Chefs performed a Herculean task: serving 97,000 meals every day. His mobile kitchens proudly claim to have served over 3.6 million happy (well ... alive) customers.

Harper Collins PublishingPictured: One U.S. service.

After Maria, Andres continued literally feeding the world by rushing over to provide comfort food to the victims of Hurricane Florence. There, he served tens of thousands of meals while the storm was raging the hardest, and even braved dangerous floodwaters to get the food where it was most needed. You just know at least one person tried to send it back for being "too salty" or something.

E. Reid Ross has a couple books, Nature Is The Worst: 500 Reasons You'll Never Want To Go Outside Again and Canadabis: The Canadian Weed Reader, both available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Michael Shields writes stuff while being tall. He has a Twitter somewhere, and if you see it please tell it to come home, he's sorry.

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