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Earthquakes Caused Deadliest Disasters in Past Decade

  • Lisa Schlein

Haitian woman is covered in rubble in Port-au-Prince, 12 Jan 2010

Haitian woman is covered in rubble in Port-au-Prince, 12 Jan 2010

Center for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters says more than 780,000 people were killed in nearly 4,000 disasters

A United Nations report finds more people died from earthquakes in the past decade than from any other disaster. Data compiled by the Center for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters says earthquakes remain a serious threat for millions of people worldwide.

The report presents some staggering figures in terms of the number of deaths and economic losses caused by natural disasters during the past decade.

More than 780,000 people were killed in nearly 4,000 disasters. The report says these catastrophic events affected more than two billion other people and cost a minimum of $960 billion in economic losses.

Director of the Research Center that issued the report, Debarati Guha-Sapir, says nearly 60 percent of the disaster deaths in the decade died because of earthquakes.

"Eighty-five percent of the fatalities were in Asia," Guha-Sapir said. "This is not going to be the case in 2010. Most of the affected people are due to climate related events and the economic losses are largely due to floods and storms."

The most deadly disasters of the past 10 years were the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, Cyclone Nargis in Burma and the Sichuan earthquake in China in 2008, followed by the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005 and heat waves in Europe in 2003.

The report says earthquakes will continue to threaten millions of peoples' lives because eight out of the 10 most-populous cities in the world are on earthquake fault-lines.

Guha-Sapir says climate-related disasters, such as floods and storms are increasing.

"It is not clear that climate change itself is an important factor in this increase," Guha-Sapir said. "There can be many other factors, bad political systems, weak infrastructure, bad organization policies, population increase, deforestation and global warming ... And we do not have sufficient research to show what is the contribution of climate-related factors to the increase in climate-related disasters."

The report says the number of disaster events has gone up dramatically during the past three decades. But the number of people affected by them has gone down substantially.

It says this may be due to better community preparedness and prevention.

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