In 2013, 330 natural triggered disasters were registered. This was both less than the average annual disaster frequency observed from 2003 to 2012 (388), and represented a decrease in associated human impacts of disasters which were, in 2013, at their lowest level since 16 years.
However, natural disasters still killed a significant number of people (21,610) but largely below the annual average between 2003-2012 (106,654) and 96.5 million people became victims worldwide, which was also below the 2003-2012 annual average (216 million) (see Figure 1). Like the other indicators, economic damages from natural disasters also show, in 2013, a decrease to average levels (2013 US $ 156.7 billion), with estimates placing the costs at US$ 118.6 billion.
Over the last decade, China, the United States, Indonesia, the Philippines and India constitute together the top 5 countries that are most frequently hit by natural disasters. In 2013, China experienced its highest number of natural disasters of the last decade. The country was affected by a variety of disaster types, including 17 floods and landslides, 15 storms, 7 earthquakes and one mass movement of geological origin, one drought and one period of extreme temperature.
Amongst the top 10 countries in terms of disaster mortality in 2013, five countries are classified as low income or lower-middle income economies (see World Bank income classification) . These countries accounted for 88% of global reported disaster mortality in 2013. Two disasters killed more than 1,000 people: the cyclone Haiyan in the Philippines, in November (7,354 deaths) and the monsoonal floods in June in India (6,054 deaths).
The low number of reported natural disasters in 2013 (330), when compared to the annual average occurrence from 2003 to 2012 (388), was mostly due to a smaller number of hydrological and climatological disasters (18% and 45% below their 2003-2012 annual average, respectively).
Hydrological disasters (159) still had by far the largest share in natural disaster occurrence in 2013 (48.2%), followed by meteorological disasters (106; 32.1%), climatological disasters (33; 10%) and geophysical disasters (32; 9.7%).
In 2013, the number of people killed by disasters (21,610) was very far from the 2003-2012 annual average of 106,654 deaths. But this is mainly explained by the impact, on the decade’s average, of three years (2004, 2008 and 2010) with more than 200,000 people reported killed and two years (2003 and 2005) with around 100,000 deaths, most of them having been killed by earthquakes.
At a more detailed level, it appears that, in 2013, the number of people killed by floods (9,819) was the highest of the decade and the number of those killed by storms (8,583) the second highest.
Deaths from floods had the largest share of natural disaster fatalities in 2013, representing 45.4% of global disaster mortality, while deaths from storms accounted for 39.7%.
Most disaster victims in 2013 were sourced by cyclone Haiyan which affected 16.1 million people, by cyclone Phailin in India, in October (13.2 million) and by cyclone Utor/Labuyo in China, in August (8 million). Victims from these three cyclones accounted for 38.7 per cent of all natural disaster victims of 2013. Other disasters with severe human impact were reported in China (one drought with 5 million victims, one flood with 3.5 million and one earthquake with 2.2 million), in the Philippines (one earthquake with 3.2 million victims and one flood with 3.1 million), in Thailand (one flood with 3.5 million victims) and in Zimbabwe (one drought with 2.2 million victims).
The 2013 data juxtaposed with the figures from the annual average for the decade 2003 to 2012 (215.5 million) indicate that the number of victims (96.5 million) has decreased. This decrease is explained by the lower human impact of climatological disasters whose number of victims (8.2 million) was 88% below its 2003-2012 annual average, and of meteorological disasters with a number of victims (32.1 million) 70% below the decade’s average. Conversely, the number of victims from meteorological disasters (49.2 million) was, in 2013, 60% above its 2003-2012 average.
In 2013, 51% of victims were from storms, 33% from floods, 8% from droughts and 7% from earthquakes. Only three countries accounted of 72.4 per cent of victims: China (28.5%), the Philippines (26.6%) and India (17.3%).
Flooding in the South and East Germany was the most costly natural disaster in 2013 with estimated economic damages of US$ 12.9 billion. Costs from cyclone Haiyan in the Philippines were estimated at US$ 10 billion. An earthquake in the Sichuan province in China (US$ 6.8 billion), the cyclone Fitow, also in China (US$ 6.7 billion), the Calgary flood in Canada (US$ 5.7 billion), tornadoes in May in the United States (US$ 5.5 billion), two floods in China, in Sichuan in July (US$ 4.6 billion) and in the North-East provinces in August-September (US$ 5 billion) and the hurricane Manuel in September in Mexico (US$ 4.2 billion) also added significantly to the total disaster damages of 2013.
The estimated economic losses from natural disasters in 2013 (US$ 118.6 billion) was 25% below the annual average damages from 2003 to 2012 (2013 US$ 156.7 billion). With the exception of storms, the decreasing rates of climatological and geophysical disasters is of greater importance.
Conversely, damages from floods (US$ 53.2 billion) were, in 2013, 90% above their 2003-2012 annual average and were the second highest of the period. The flood in Germany was the third costliest since the flood in China in May-August 2010 (2013 US$ 19.2 billion) and the flood in Thailand in 2011 (2013 US$ 41.4 billion)
Damages from meteorological disasters (US$ 52.4 billion) were 21 % above their annual 2003-2012 average (2013 US$ 30.7 billion). The cyclone Haiyan, in the Philippines, was the second costliest disaster in 2013, but far behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (2013 US$ 149.1 billion) or Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (2013 US$ 50.7 billion).
Costs from geophysical disasters (US$ 9.1 billion) were 82% below their 2003-2012 annual average (2013 US$ 49.5 billion). The earthquake in the Sichuan province in China was the third costliest disaster of 2013. It ranks far from the exceptional costs from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 (2013 US$ 217.5 billion) or damages from the May 2008 earthquake in China (2013 US$ 91.9 billion) or from the Honshu-Niigata earthquake in Japan in 2004 (2013 US$ 34.5 billion).
Damages from climatological disasters (US$ 3.9 billion) were 68 % below their decade’s average (2013 US$ 12.5 billion). The costliest climatological disaster in 2013 was a drought in New Zealand (US$ 823 million). Such an amount is very far from the damages reported from the United States in the South- and Mid-West regions in 2012 (2013 US$ 20.3 billion) and in the South-West region in 2011 (2013 US$ 8.3 billion).
Looking at the geographical distribution of disasters, Asia was the continent most often hit by natural disasters in 2013 (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 2003 to 2012. In 2013, disaster occurrence in Asia (156) was similar to its 2003-2012 annual average (155). Inversely, numbers of disasters were below their decade’s annual average in Africa (-38.6%), Oceania (-26.2%), the Americas (-19.8%) and Europe (-17.7%).
Asia accounted in 2013 for 90.1% of global disaster victims, followed by Africa (5.1%). Compared to their 2003-2012 annual averages, the number of victims in 2013 increased in Asia and Europe, decreased in Africa and the Americas, and remained stable in Oceania. On a more detailed note, hydrological disasters caused, proportionally, more victims in 2013 in Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania. Climatological disasters also created more victims in the Americas, Asia and Oceania; meteorological disasters in Asia and Europe and geophysical disasters in Asia.
In 2013, the regional distribution of disaster damages kept the main profile observed from 2003 to 2012, with Asia suffering the most damages (49.3% of global disaster damages), followed by the Americas (28.9%), Europe (18.8%), Oceania (2.75%) and Africa (0.2%). Damages were below their annual 2003-2012 average in all continents except Europe. The highest drop occurred in Africa (-80.6%) while the lowering was less sharp in the Americas (-48.1%), Oceania (-33.8%) and in Asia (-18.0%). Inversely, in Europe costs of natural disasters were 69.8% above their decade’s annual average. More precisely, costs of climatological disasters were above their 2003-2012 average in Oceania and near their average in Africa. Damages from hydrological disasters were above their decade’s average in the Americas, Asia and Europe and damages from meteorological disasters in Asia, Europe and Oceania. Hydrological disasters contributed most to the increased damages in Europe, mainly due to the flood in South and East Germany. In Europe, the increase in damages can largely be attributed 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 sub-national disaster databases for the compilation of reliable, standardised, interoperable disaster occurrence and impact data should be prioritised for more effective disaster risk reduction.