Quakes are decade’s worst disasters, says UN report

Saturday, January 30, 2010

LONDON - A UN-backed report has revealed that almost 60 percent of the people killed by natural disasters in the past decade lost their lives in earthquakes, which makes quakes the decade’s worst disasters.

Storms were responsible for 22 percent of lives lost, while extreme temperatures caused 11 percent of deaths from 2000 to 2009.

According to BBC News, in total, 3,852 disasters killed more than 780,000 people, as estimated by a report by the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).

Asia was the worst-affected continent, accounting for 85 percent of all fatalities.

The decade’s deadliest disaster was the 2004 Asian tsunami, which killed more than 220,000 people when a series of waves devastated coastal areas around the Indian Ocean.

Cyclone Nargis, which swept across Burma in 2008 claimed 138,000 lives, while the European heatwave of 2003 was blamed for 72,000 deaths.

Data from CRED estimated that a further two billion people were affected by the catastrophes, which left a trail of destruction that cost in excess of 960 billion dollars.

“Earthquakes are the deadliest nature hazard of the past 10 years and remain a serious threat for millions of people worldwide,” said Magareta Wahlstrom, the UN secretary general’s special representative for disaster risk reduction.

She added that eight out 10 of the world’s most populous cities were located on fault lines, including Tokyo, Mexico City and Mumbai.

“Seismic risk is a permanent risk and cannot be ignored,” said Wahlstrom.

Referring to the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on 12 January, in which up to 200,000 people are feared to have lost their lives, she said it is was essential that such widespread devastation could not be repeated.

“Risk reduction will be a main priority in Haiti, and we will be working with our partners to ensure that it is central in the reconstruction,” she said.

It is estimated that about a third of the nation’s population of nine million people have been directly affected by the aftermath of the quake.

According to Professor Debarati Guha-Sapir, director of CRED, while nothing could be done to prevent natural disasters, the degree of damage was determined by factors that could be addressed, such as urbanisation, urban planning and deforestation.

“The number of catastrophic events has more than doubled since the 1980-89 decade,” he observed.

“In contrast, the number of affected people has increased at a slower rate. This may be due to better community preparedness and prevention,” he said. (ANI)

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