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Between 1998 and 2017 climate-related and geophysical disasters killed 1.3 million people and left a further 4.4 billion injured, homeless, displaced or in need of emergency assistance. While the majority of fatalities were due to geophysical events, mostly earthquakes and tsunamis, 91% of all disasters were caused by floods, storms, droughts, heatwaves and other extreme weather events.
UN 20-year review: earthquakes and tsunamis kill more people while climate change is driving up economic losses
Amongst natural disasters, earthquakes are one of the most lethal kinds due to their unpredictable nature and devastating impact they can have in a matter of seconds. They can occur anywhere, at any time and impact differently depending on their magnitude, the season, the built environment, the time of day, causing a wide range of potential consequences on population. This make them a matter of political and humanitarian concern for health practitioners, policymakers and the hazard management community.
In 2017, EM-DAT data indicates that 318 natural disasters occurred, affecting 122 countries. The impact of which resulted in 9,503 deaths, 96 million people affected, and US$314 billion in economic damages.
The human impact of natural disasters in 2017 was much lower than the last 10 year average, where events with extremely high mortality occurred, such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti (225,570 deaths) and the 2008 Nargis Cyclone in Myanmar (138,400 deaths).
Debarati Guha-Sapir, Philippe Hoyois, Pasacline Wallemacq, and Regina Below
Focus on tropical cyclones on American continent “Hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons are the same weather phenomenon; we just use different names for these storms in different places. In the Atlantic and Northeast Pacific, the term “hurricane” is used. The same type of disturbance in the Northwest Pacific is called a “typhoon” and “cyclones” occur in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean” (NOAA, 2017).
Natural disasters over the first semester of 2017
During the first semester of 2017, EM-DAT preliminary data shows that 149 disasters occurred in 73 countries. The impact of which resulted in 3,162 deaths, affected more than 80 million people and caused more than US$32.4 billion (A).
The major disasters were floods and landslides occurring in Asia, South America and Africa (B).
Warm conditions affect human health, but the largest impacts are created by strong and prolonged events. These events, which are called ‘heatwaves’, are generally described as a period of abnormally high and quite often humid weather, usually lasting for a minimum of one day.
In 2016, EM-DAT preliminary data indicates that 301 country level disasters occurred, affecting 102 countries. The impact of which sums up to a total of 7,628 deaths, 411 million affected people, and US$97 billion of economic damages.
Of the 1.35 million people killed by natural hazards over the past 20 years, more than half died in earthquakes, with the remainder due to weather- and climate related hazards. The overwhelming majority of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. The poorest nations paid the highest price in terms of the numbers killed per disaster and per 100,000 population.
Georeferencing the footprint of natural disasters
Over the last twenty years, the overwhelming majority (90%) of disasters have been caused by floods, storms, heatwaves and other weather-related events. In total, 6,457 weather-related disasters were recorded worldwide by EM-DAT. Over this period, weather-related disasters claimed 606,000 lives, an average of some 30,000 per annum, with an additional 4.1 billion people injured, left homeless or in need of emergency assistance.
Natural disasters1 in 2015 In 2015, 346 natural disasters were recorded in the EM-DAT database. They claimed 22,773 lives, affected over 98 million others and caused economic damages of US$66.5 billion.
The largest disaster of 2015 in terms of mortality was the earthquake in Nepal from April that resulted in 8,831 deaths. It was also one of the most expensive disaster with over 5 billion US$ losses reported.
346 reported disasters
22 773 people dead
98.6 million people affected
US$66.5 billion economic damage
20-YEAR REVIEW SHOWS 90% OF DISASTERS ARE WEATHER-RELATED; US, CHINA, INDIA, PHILIPPINES AND INDONESIA RECORD THE MOST
23 November 2015, GENEVA – A new report issued today by the UN, “The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters”, shows that over the last twenty years, 90% of major disasters have been caused by 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heatwaves, droughts and other weather-related events.
The five countries hit by the highest number of disasters are the United States (472), China (441), India (288), Philippines (274), and Indonesia, (163).
Peter Heudtlass, Niko Speybroeck, Debarati Guha-Sapir
Institut de Recherche Santé et Société (IRSS), Université catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium
• Forced migrants are an extremely vulnerable population, but reliable data on all-cause mortality are chronically scarce.
• Almost all available estimates are based on data that are collected by humanitarian organizations and often suffer a lack of precision and potential publication bias.
During the first semester of 2015, EM-DAT preliminary data shows that 138 disasters occurred in 68 countries. The impact of which resulted in 15,143 deaths, affected more than 15 million people and caused more than US$13.2 billion (A).
The major disaster was the earthquake of the 25th April, followed by a second one the 12th May in Nepal (see Cred Crunch n°39). They killed together more than 8,800 people (B) and affected over 5,5 million (C).