In 2014, 324 triggered natural disasters1 were registered. It was the third lowest number of reported disasters in the last decade, below the annual average disaster frequency observed from 2004 to 2013 (384). However, natural disasters still killed 7,823, a number largely below the annual average for years 2004-2013 (99,820), and 140.8 million people become victims worldwide, also below the 2004-2013 annual average (199.2 million) (see Figure 1). Like the other indicators, economic damages from natural disasters, which are estimated at US$ 99.2 billion in 2014, show a decrease to below their decennial average of US $ 162.5 billion.
The lower number of reported natural disasters in 2014 was mostly due to a smaller number of hydrological and climatological disasters (20.3% and 34.4% below their 2004-2013 annual average, respectively). Hydrological disasters (153) still took by far the largest share in natural disaster occurrence in 2014 (47.2%), followed by meteorological disasters (118; 36.4%), geophysical disasters (32; 9.9%) and climatological disasters (21; 6.5%).
Over the last decade, China, the United States, the Philippines, Indonesia and India constitute together the top 5 countries that are most frequently hit by natural disasters. In 2014, with 40 natural disasters reported, China experienced its second highest number of natural disasters of the last decade. The country was affected by a variety of disasters types, including 15 floods and landslides, 15 storms, 8 earthquakes and 2 droughts. Inversely, the Philippines and Indonesia reported their second third lowest number of disasters in the last 10 years.
In 2014, the number of people killed by natural disasters (7,823) was the lowest in the last 10 decade and much below the 2004-2013 annual average of 99,820 deaths. The period 2004-2013 counts three years with more than 200,000 people reported killed, each time mostly attributable to major events: the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 (226,408 deaths), the cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008 (138,366 deaths) and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 (225,570 deaths).
At a more detailed level, it appears that, in 2014, the number of people killed by floods (3,634) and storms (1,239) were, both, the second lowest of the decade, far below their 2004-2013 annual average (6,293 and 18,291, respectively). The third highest number of deaths was due to extreme temperatures (1,100) and this figure was also significantly below the decennial average (7,178).
In terms of disaster mortality in 2014, amongst the top 10 countries, seven are classified as lowincome or lower-middle income economies (see World Bank income classification)2,3 and accounted for 46.1% of global reported disaster mortality. The three high-income or upper-middle income economies accounted for 29.2%. Two disasters killed more than 500 people in 2014: the Ludian county earthquake in China, in March (731 deaths) and a cold wave in Peru (505 deaths).
Regarding the total number of victims (140.7 million), it appears to be, in 2014, 29.3% below its 2004-2013 annual average (199.2 million). This decrease is mainly explained by the lower human impact of hydrological disasters whose number of victims, 42.3 million, was 55.1% below its 2004-2013 annual average (94.2 million) and the lower human impact of meteorological disasters as well with a number of victims (27 million) 37.8% below its decade’s average (43.4 million). The number of victims of geophysical disasters (3.4 million) also decreased strongly, being 60.1% below its annual 2004-2013 average (8.6 million). Conversely, the number of victims from climatological disasters (68.1 million) was, in 2014, 28.3% above its 2004-2013 average (53 million) but this increase isn’t important enough to compensate the lowering in the numbers of victims of others disaster types.
Two droughts in China (27.5 million victims) and in Brazil (27 million victims), one flood in China (15 million victims) and the typhoon Rammasun in China and the Philippines (9.9 and 4.7 million victims, respectively) made almost 60% of the total number of victims. Eighteen other disasters (8 floods, 5 droughts, 3 storms, 1 earthquake and 1 episode of extreme temperature) had severe human impacts ranging from 1 to 5 million victims.
The estimated economic losses from natural disasters in 2014 (US$ 99.2 billion) was the fourth lowest since 2004 and 39 % below the annual 2004-2013 damages average (US$ 162.5 billion). The lowering in the amounts of damages came from geophysical (US$ 7.4 billion; -85.3% compared to the 2004-2013 average) and meteorological disasters (US$ 43.1 billion; -41.3% compared to the 2004-2013 average). Conversely, damages from hydrological disasters (US$ 37.4 billion) were, in 2014, 19.4 % above their 2004-2013 annual average, while damages from climatological disasters (US$ 11.3 billion) were 48.8% above their decennial average.
The costliest natural disaster in 2014 was the flood in the Jammu region, in India, which cost US$ 16 billion, while cyclone Hudhud made US$ 7 billion damages, also in India. Costs from a winter storm in Japan amounted to US$ 5.9 billion. A drought in Brazil, the Ludian earthquake in China and typhoon Rammasun in China and the Philippines made damages of US$ 5 billion each. Seventeen other disasters (7 floods, 6 storms, 3 droughts and one episode of extreme temperature) made damages ranging from US$ 1 to 3.9 billion. The total costs of all these disasters represent 77.4% of all reported damages in 2014.
Looking at the distribution of disasters across continents, it appears that Asia was most often hit (44.4%), followed by the Americas (23.5%), Europe (16.7%), Africa (12.0%) and Oceania (3.4%). This regional distribution of disaster occurrence in 2014 is not really different from the profile observed from 2004 to 2013.
Asia accounted in 2014 for 69.5% of worldwide reported disaster victims (against 80.7% for the 2004-2013 decade’s average), while the Americas accounted for 22.8% (against 4.9% on average for the 2004-2013 period) and Africa for 5.5% (against 14% on average for 2004-2013). Europe accounted for 2% of all natural disasters victims (against 0.3% for 2004-2013 average) and Oceania for 0.12% (against 0.10% according to the 2004-2013 average).
With 64.6% of worldwide natural disasters reported costs, Asia suffered the most damages in 2014, followed by the Americas (26.0%) and Europe (7.8%). A share of 1.1% of global disaster damages was reported for Oceania and of 0.5% for Africa. Despite some differences in the proportions, the ranking of the continents according to their contribution to the total reported damages is similar from the one observed over the last decade, where Asia had the highest damages, followed by the Americas and Europe. However, when compared to their respective 2004-2013 averages, the amount of damages in Asia and in the Americas differed significantly, the lowering of costs being much larger in the Americas.
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.