News / Africa

2011 Costliest Year in History for Catastrophes

The New Year sunrise lights up an area devastated by the March 2011 tsunami in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture, January 1, 2012.
The New Year sunrise lights up an area devastated by the March 2011 tsunami in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture, January 1, 2012.
Lisa Schlein

The United Nations reports 2011 was the costliest year in history for catastrophes. It says economic losses from natural disasters, including earthquakes, storms and floods, amounted to $366 billion.

The United Nations reports about 206 million people were affected by just more than 300 natural disasters in 2011. Of these, 30,000 people died.  

The United Nations says the number of natural disasters last year was lower than average for the past 10 years, though, and the number of deaths also is far lower than that recorded for 2010.

The director of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at the University of Louvain, Belgium, Debarati Guha-Sapir, said the 2011 death toll is less because 2010 had several spectacular earthquakes.

“You are likely to get more deaths from earthquakes if it is a poor country than if it is a rich country. In this particular case, out of the 29,782 dead [in 2011] about two-thirds of it, about 20,000 of this comes directly from the tsunami and the earthquake in Japan,” said Guha-Sapir.

By comparison, the earthquake, which struck Haiti in January 2010, killed nearly 250,000 people.

Haiti’s economy suffered $8.5 billion in damages. But the Japan earthquake and tsunami in March caused economic losses of $210 billion, making it the costliest natural catastrophe of all time.

Japan, Thailand, New Zealand, the United States and China figure among the  top 10 disasters in terms of economic losses in 2011. The countries that had the most deaths include Japan, the Philippines, Brazil and Thailand.

The report notes the overwhelming number of deaths and economic damages were in Asia. Guha-Sapir said storms and floods account for nearly 70 percent of the world’s natural disasters. As such, she said, they have the greatest impact on humans.  

“One is by simply killing them," he said. "There is a lot of drowning, a lot of blunt trauma that happens and does not get picked up. There is an increase in diseases, an important increase in diseases by floods. And thirdly and most importantly is in malnutrition and hunger because agriculture losses are very high in these countries. Harvests are lost. Farmers and subsistence farmers and the children go hungry after a flood. Therefore you get pervasive malnutrition in areas where there have been floods."

Drought and famine end up causing a huge number of deaths, but Guha-Sapir said these deaths go uncounted, and a disaster such as that occurring in the Horn of Africa does not get counted in the statistics. She explained this is because people do not die of famine, they die from related causes, such as measles or organ failure and infections brought on by malnutrition.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs