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Deadliest Year for Natural Disasters - 2010

27 January 2011 at 11:15 am
Staff Reporter
A Geneva based research centre has described 2010 as the deadliest year from natural disasters in two decades - and Australia ranks in the top ten countries affected.

Staff Reporter | 27 January 2011 at 11:15 am


Deadliest Year for Natural Disasters - 2010
27 January 2011 at 11:15 am

A Geneva based research centre has described 2010 as the deadliest year from natural disasters in two decades – and Australia ranks in the top ten countries affected.

The 12th January 2010 earthquake in Haiti devastated the island nation and killed over 222,000 people.  Flickr Image: Some rights reserved by United Nations Development Programme 

Some 373 natural disasters killed over 296,800 people in 2010, affecting nearly 208 million others and costing nearly US$110 billion, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).

The top two most lethal disasters — the 12 January earthquake in Haiti, which killed over 222,500 people, as well as the Russian heat wave in summer, which caused about 56,000 fatalities made 2010 the deadliest years in at least two decades.

Margareta Wahlström, UN Secretary-General for Special Representative for Disaster Reduce says these figures are bad, and unless action is taken now the world will see more and more disasters due to unplanned urbanisation and environmental degradation.

And Wahlström says weather-related disasters are sure to rise in the future, due to factors that include climate change.

The CRED study places Australia sixth on the list of countries with reported natural disasters in 2010 after China, India, Philippines, the United States and Indonesia.

Moderate to strong La Niña conditions are now well-established in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, and are likely to continue at least until the first quarter of this year, according to the El Niño/La Niña Update issued recently by the World Meteorological Organization.

La Niña is thought to be linked to the floods and landslides that occurred in Colombia last year, from April to December, and more recently the floods in Queensland, Australia, triggered by rains that began late in December 2010.

Wahlström says it’s critical for local governments, city leaders and their partners to incorporate climate change adaptation in urban planning

She stressed that disaster risk reduction was “no longer optional”.

For the first time, the Americas headed the list of the world’s worst affected continents, where 75 per cent of total deaths were caused by one single event in the Caribbean: the Haiti earthquake. Europe follows, accounting for nearly a fifth of the year’s total deaths from disasters brought on by the Russian heat wave.

Other extreme climate events experienced by Europe include Storm Xynthia in the west (February 2010), heavy flood in France (June 2010), and the extreme winter conditions all over Europe in December 2010.

Asia experienced fewer disaster deaths than the Americas and Europe in 2010 – representing 4.7 per cent of total mortality that year – but remains the highest affected continent. Some 89 per cent of all people affected by disasters in 2010 lived in Asia, according to CRED. Australia’s disaster deaths stand at .003%. (The study does not include the deaths recorded in 2011 from the Queensland and Victorian floods)

Of the list of top 10 disasters with the highest death counts, five occurred in Asia – China, Pakistan, and Indonesia. Earthquakes killed 2,968 people in China in April and 530 people in Indonesia in October. From May to August, floods killed 1,691 people in that country, and a further 1,765 were killed by mudslides, landslide or rock fall triggered heavy rains and floods in August. Nearly 2,000 people were killed by massive floods in Pakistan that covered one-fifth of the land mass, due to rains which pelted the northwest from July to August.

Floods and landslides during the summer in China are estimated to have cost US$18 billion, the Pakistan floods US$9.5 billion, and the Haiti earthquake US$8 billion.

But the costliest event in 2010 was the Chilean earthquake in February, which cost US$30 billion in disaster damage. And yet, the study says, the economic losses in 2010 still do not surpass that of 2005, where damage from Hurricane Katrina, Rita and Wilma alone amounted to US$139 billion.

In 2008, the earthquake in Sichuan, China, inflicted $86 billion in damage, bringing the total for that year to about US$200 billion.

Strengthening local community resilience will be a leading topic at the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction — a gathering of stakeholders in disaster risk reduction scheduled for 8 to 13 May, in Geneva, Switzerland, seat of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

Since 1988, CRED has maintained an International Disaster Database known as EM-DAT. EM-DAT and includes all disasters from 1900 until present, which fit at least one of the following criteria: 10 or more people killed; 100 or more people affected; a declaration of a state of emergency by country authorities; or an appeal for international assistance by country authorities.

The Report can be downloaded at


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