Cred Crunch Newsletter, Issue No. 48 September 2017 -“Disaster Data: A Balanced Perspective”

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).

Eight of the 10 natural disasters that recorded the highest number of people affected are droughts that are/were still ongoing in 2017. Those events are slow-onset, spatially extensive and prolonged, that could last for up to 4 years for some events (C).

It is a drought that is also the most costly disaster, occurring in Vietnam since 2015 and with economic damages of 6.75 billion US$ (D), an enormous amount for this country.

Figures from the first half of 2017 are much lower compared to the average of the first semester in the last 10 years when major disasters occurred (Haiti earthquake in 2010, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, the tsunami in Japan-Fukushima in 2011 and the Nepal earthquake in 2015) (A). But the impacts of natural disasters for 2017 are expecting to rise. Indeed, the monsoon season brought seasonal floods and landslides that were particularly deadly this year in Asia and Africa. The hurricane and cyclone season is also currently ongoing, which will rise the value of economic damages.

Asian continent is the most prone to natural disaster in terms of occurrence, number of deaths and economic damages (E). Even if Asia did not suffer major disasters with high death tolls, the continent suffer regularly many floods and landslides. Africa is carrying the weight of the highest total population affected, mainly due to long lasting droughts.

Three of the 10 costliest disasters occurred in United States with a flood and 2 storms (D).

Concerning the sharing of impacts by disaster type, 44% of events were floods, responsible for 52% of deaths and 44% of economic damages - which make it the most expensive type of disaster. On the other hand, only 11% of events were landslides and responsible for 25% of the total death toll (F).

In a context of climate change and as every continent is affected by natural disasters, disaster risk reduction measures always need to be improved and be part of national and international policies. Especially for recurrent disasters like floods or slow-onset disasters like droughts.