In 2015, 376 natural triggered disasters were registered. After the lowest number since the beginning of the century in 2014 (330), this increase could be a sign of a reversal in the trend to decline in the annual number of disasters since 2005, even if the 2015 number remains below its average annual for the period 2005-2014 (380). Last year natural disasters made still 22,765 deaths, a number largely below the annual average for years 2005-2014 (76,416), and made 110.3 million victims worldwide, also below the 2005-2014 annual average (199.2 million) (see Figure 1). Like the other indicators, with estimates placing economic damages at US$ 70.3 billion, natural disasters costs were, in 2015, significantly below their decennial average of US $ 159.7 billion.
The increase in the number of reported natural disasters in 2015, was mostly due to a higher number of climatological disasters: 45 compared with the 2005-2014 annual average of 32, an increase of 41%. The number of meteorological disasters (127) was 2% above its decadal average (125) while, inversely, the number of hydrological disasters (175) and of geophysical disasters (29) were, both, 9% below their 2005-2014 annual average of, respectively, 192 and 32. As each year since 2005, the number of hydrological disasters still took by far the largest share in natural disaster occurrence in 2015 (46.5%, for a mean proportion of 50.6% for the period 2005-2014), followed by meteorological disasters (33.8% versus a decadal mean proportion of 32.7%), while climatological disasters (12% versus an annual mean proportion of 8.3%) overpassed geophysical disasters (7.7% for a 2005-2014 mean proportion of 8.4%)
Over the last decade, China, the United States, India, the Philippines and Indonesia constitute together the top 5 countries that are most frequently hit by natural disasters. In 2015, with 36 natural disasters reported, China experienced its third highest number of natural disasters of the last decade, 20% above its 2005-2014 annual average of 30. The country was affected by a variety of disasters types, including 17 storms, 13 floods and landslides, 5 earthquakes and one drought. The number of natural disasters in the United States (28) was as high as in 2013, and 33% above its decadal annual average of 21. With 21 disasters, its third highest number since 2005, India is 24% below its 2005-2014 annual average of 27. Inversely, with respectively 15 and 10 natural disasters, the Philippines and Indonesia knew their 4th and 2nd lowest numbers since 2005, below their respective annual average of 18 and 14.
In 2015, the number of people killed by disasters (22,765) was the lowest since 2005, way below the 2005-2014 annual average of 76,416 deaths which, however, takes into account two years with more than 200,000 people reported killed, each time mostly attributable to major catastrophes: the cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008 (138,366 deaths) and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 (225,570 deaths). But even after exclusion of these disasters, the number of deaths in 2015 remains below a recomputed 2005-2014 annual average of 40,022 deaths.
At a more detailed level, it appears that, in 2015, earthquakes and tsunamis killed the most people (9,526) however far below a 2005-2014 annual average of 42,381. Extreme temperatures made 7,418 deaths, the second highest number since 2005 but far below the peak of 2010 (57,064). Inversely, the number of deaths from floods (3,449) and storms (1,260) were, both, the lowest since 2005, far below their 2005-2014 annual averages (5,933 and 17,769, respectively).
Amongst the top 10 countries in terms of disaster mortality in 2015, six countries are classified as low-income or lower-middle income economies (see World Bank income classification), and accounted for 67.6% of global reported disaster mortality. Four disasters killed more than 1,000 people in 2015: the Gorkha earthquake in Nepal of April (8,831 deaths) and three heat waves in France between June and August (3,275 deaths), in India in May (2,248 deaths) and in Pakistan in June (1,229 deaths).
The number of victims in 2015 (110.3 million) was the second lowest since the decade, far below its 2005-2014 annual average (196.3 million). It must be noted that the four years with the lowest number of victims since 2005 are the four last years, 2012 to 2015, far below the 200 million victims reported between 2007 and 2011. This decrease is mainly explained by the lower human impact of floods, whose number of victims (36.1 million) was the second lowest since 2005, 58.4% below its 2005-2014 annual average (86.9 million) and of storms with a number of victims (10.4 million) 70.2% below its decade’s average (34.9 million). The number of victims of climatological disasters (54.3 million) was near its 2005-2014 average (56.7 million). Geophysical disasters made 8.1 million victims, a number lightly below the 8.6 million annual average, but however the second highest since 2005, after the very high peak of 2008 (47.7 million).
Nine countries of the top ten countries in terms of number of victims were low or lower-middle income countries, accounting for 69.9% of the victims of 2015. The natural events that accounted for more than 10 million victims were two droughts in DPR Korea in June and July (18 million victims) and in Ethiopia, from September (10.2 million) and floods in India in July and August (13.7 million). Twenty other disasters (10 droughts, 5 floods, 4 storms and one earthquake) had severe human impacts ranging from 1 to 9 million victims.
The estimated economic losses from natural disasters in 2015 (US$ 70.3 billion) was the third lowest since 2005 and 56 % below the annual 2005-2014 damages average (US$ 159.8 billion).
The lowering in the amount of damages come from geophysical (US$ 6.7 billion; -86.0% compared to the 2005-2014 average), meteorological disasters (US$ 33.4 billion; -51.7% compared to the 2005-2014 average) and hydrological disasters (US$ 21.3 billion; -38% compared to the 2005-2014 average). Damages from earthquakes were the second lowest since 2005, and represent 8.7% of all disaster costs. Those from storms and floods were, both at their third lowest since 2005, contributing, respectively, to 47.4 and 30.3% of all disaster costs. These three disaster types are at the origin of almost all these costs. On their side, damages from climatological disasters (US$ 8.9 billion) were, in 2015, very near their 2005-2015 annual average (US$ 8.8 billion), however if in this disaster category, damages from droughts and from wildfires were, both, the fourth lowest since 2005, costs of droughts (US$ 5.8 billion) were slightly below their decadal average (US$ 6.4 billion) while those from wildfires (US$ 3.1 billion) were 27.9% above their 2005-2014 annual average.
In the top ten countries for economic damages, six were high or upper-middle income countries which accounted for 70.7% of the total economic losses while the share of the four low and lower-middle income countries in this total was of 17.6%.
The costliest natural disaster in 2015 was the Gorkha earthquake, in Nepal, which cost US$ 5.7billion to the country, while typhoon Mujigae impacted China for a total of US$ 4.2 billion economic losses. Twenty-one other disasters (9 storms, 7 floods, 3 droughts and 2 wildfires) accounted for damages ranging from US$ 1 to 3 billion. The total costs of these 23 disasters represent 61.2% of all reported damages in 2015.
Looking at the distribution of disasters across continents, it appears that Asia was most often hit (44.4%), followed by the Americas (25.5%), Africa (16.5%), Europe (7.2%) and Oceania (6.4%).
This regional distribution of disaster occurrence is, in 2015, not very different from the profile observed between 2005 and 2014. However, the share of Europe in the distribution is half its 2005-2014 mean proportion, while the share of Oceania is, in 2015, twice its average.
Asia accounted in 2015 for 62.7% of worldwide reported disaster victims (against 80.6% for the 2005-2014 decade’s average), while Africa accounted for 28.0% (against 13.1% on average for the 2005-2014 period) and the Americas for 7.0% (against 5.8% on average for 2005-2014). Oceania accounted for 2.2% of all natural disasters victims (against 0.1% for 2005-2014 average) and Europe for only 0.21% (against 0.35% according to the 2005-2014 average).
With 49.1% of worldwide natural disaster reported costs, Asia suffered the most damages in 2015, followed by the Americas (36.7%) and Europe (6.8%). A share of 5.1% of global disaster damages was reported for Oceania and of 2.4% for Africa. In spite of 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 most damages, followed by the Americas and Europe. However, when compared to its 2005-2014 average, the amount of damages in Africa was significantly above its 2005-2014 annual average of 0.34%.
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 standardized, interoperable disaster occurrence and impact data remain priorities for the strengthening of tools helping to benchmark and orientate effective disaster risk reduction programs.