In 2012, 357 natural triggered disasters were registered. This was both less than the average annual disaster frequency observed from 2002 to 2011 (394), and represented a decrease in associated human impacts of disasters in 2012, which were at their lowest level compared to previous years. However, natural disasters still killed a significant number, a total of 9,655 people were killed (annual average 2002-2011:107,000) and 124.5 million people become victims worldwide (annual average 2002-2011:268 million) (see Figure 1). Contrary to other indicators, economic damages from natural disasters did show an increase to above average levels (143 billion 2012 US $), with estimates placing the figure at US$ 157 billion.
Over the last decade, China, the United States, the Philippines, India and Indonesia constitute together the top 5 countries that are most frequently hit by natural disasters. In 2012, China experienced its fourth highest number of natural disasters of the last decade. The country was affected by a variety of disasters types, including 13 floods and landslides, 8 storms, 7 earthquakes and one period of extreme temperature.
Amongst the top 10 countries in terms of disaster mortality in 2012, six countries are classified as low-income or lower-middle income economies and four as high-income or upper-middle income economies (see World Bank income classification). These countries accounted for 68.2% of global reported disaster mortality in 2012. The single deadliest disaster was typhoon Bopha which killed 1,901 people in Philippines.
Hurricane Sandy, in the United States, was the most expensive natural disaster in 2012 with estimated economic damages of US$ 50.0 billion. The drought which affected the Mid-West and South-Western regions of the United States during the second half of the year (US$ 20.0 billion), the May 20th and 29th earthquakes in Italy (US$ 15.8 billion), a flood in the Beijing region in China, in July (US$ 8.0 billion) and tornadoes in March in the United States (US$ 5.0 billion) also added significantly to the total disaster damages of 2012.
Most disaster victims in 2012 were sourced the flood that affected China in June, causing 17.4 million victims. Furthermore, China was affected by another flood in April (13.1 million victims) and by two storms in August (9.8 million victims), further contributing to a total of 44.6 million victims, a figure representing 34.7% of global reported disaster victims. Droughts and consecutive famines made many victims in Kenya (3.8 million), Mali (3.5 million), Sudan (3.2 million), Northern Korea (3 million), Niger (3 million) and Burkina Faso (2.9 million). When considering the population size of the country, more than 20% of populations of Lesotho, Gambia, Mali and Niger were made victim of natural disasters in 2012, mostly as a result of drought.
The data 2012 juxtaposed with the figures from the previous decade indicate that the number of victims (124.5 million) has decreased in relation to its annual average for the decade 2001 to 2010, which equated to 268 million. This decrease is explained by the lower human impact from all types of disasters. In 2012, the disaster with the greatest impact was a flood which affected 17 million people in China in June. This contrast with the previous decade, characterized by, irrespective of disaster type, at least two major disaster events per year which affected a greater number of people.
In 2012, 53% of victims were from floods, 27 % from droughts and 16 % from storms. The country the most affected was China with 36% of victims, worldwide.
In 2012, the number of people killed by disasters (9,655) was the lowest of the last decade and very far from the 2002-2011 annual average of 107,000 deaths. This is mainly explained by a lower number of deaths from all type of disasters. The number of people killed by earthquakes, floods and wildfire are the lowest of the decade. The number of people killed by earthquakes (711) is particularly low compared to a 2002-2011 average of 67,974. However, hydrological disasters took the largest share of natural disaster fatalities in 2012, causing 3,574 deaths, and representing 39% of global disaster mortality. But 2012 this followed a lower amount than the average, where hydrological disasters killed 5,757 people per year from 2002 to 2011.
The estimated economic losses from natural disasters in 2012 (US$ 157 billion) surpassed of almost 10% the annual average damages from 2001 to 2010 (US$ 143 billion). Hurricane Sandy (US$ 50 billion) was the second costliest storm of the decade, but far behind Hurricane Katrina (2012 US$ 147 billion). Damages from the drought in the South-Western and Mid-West regions of the United States (US$ 20 billion) were the highest reported for the decade. These two disasters accounted for 45% of the total amount of reported damages.
In 2012, geophysical reported damages (US$ 18.6 billion) were low compared to their 2002-2011 average of US$ 47 billion and the two earthquakes in the region of Ferrare, in Italia, (US$ 15.8 billion) account for 85 % of these damages.
The lower number of reported natural disasters in 2012 (357), when compared to the annual average occurrence from 2002 to 2011 (394), was mostly due to a smaller number of hydrological and meteorological disasters, below their 2002-2011 annual average. Hydrological disasters still took by far the largest share in natural disaster occurrence in 2012 (38.5%), followed by meteorological disasters (25.3%), geophysical disasters (8.4%) and climatological disasters (7.3%).
Looking at the geographical distribution of disasters, Asia was the continent most often hit by natural disasters in 2012 (40.7%), followed by the Americas (22.2%), Europe (18.3%), Africa (15.7%), and Oceania (3.1%). This regional distribution of disaster occurrence resembles the profile observed from 2002 to 2011. In 2012, disaster occurrence in Europe was more than three times the one for 2011 and surpassed its 2002-2011 annual average. Inversely, in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania, disaster occurrences were below the decade annual average.
Asia accounted in 2012 for 64.5% of global disaster victims, followed by Africa (30.4%). Compared to their 2002-2011 annual averages, the number of victims in 2012 increased in Africa and Oceania, but decreased in the Americas, Asia and Europe. On a more detailed note, climatological, hydrological and meteorological disasters caused more victims in 2012 in Africa. Climatological and geophysical disasters made also more victims in the Americas and hydrological disasters in Oceania.
In Africa, it was floods and droughts which most increased the number of victims.
In 2012, the Americas suffered the most damages (65.7% of global disaster damages), followed by Asia (17.8%) and Europe (15.4%). For both Africa and Oceania, a share of around 0.6% of global disaster damages was reported. This distribution of disaster damages between continents differs from the distribution seen over the last decade when Asia experienced the most damages, followed by the Americas and Europe. Damages in the Americas increased the most in 2012 compared to the 2002-2011 annual average, but damages in Europe were also higher. In contrast, damages in Asia decreased. More precisely, meteorological and climatological disasters contributed most to the increased damages in the Americas, mainly due to the hurricane Sandy and the drought in the U.S.
In Europe, the increase in damages is largely attributable to the two earthquakes in Italy.
EM-DAT’s global approach to the compilation of disaster data continuously provides us with valuable information and trends on the occurrence of natural disasters and their impacts on society. However, the development of guidelines and tools for the creation of national and subnational disaster databases for the compilation of reliable, standardised, interoperable disaster occurrence and impact data should be prioritised for more effective disaster risk reduction.