In 2005, there was an 18 percent rise in disasters that killed 91,900 people according to official figures issued by the Belgian Université
Catholique de Louvain’s Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) in Geneva.
There were 360 natural disasters last year compared to 305 in 2004. “This increase is mainly due to the rising numbers of floods and droughts that affect large swathes of a population,” said CRED Director Prof. Debarati Guha Sapir. CRED figures indicate that the number of floods increased by 57 percent in 2005 (107 in 2004 and 168 in 2005) and droughts by about 47 percent (15 in 2004 and 22 in
The number of people affected by these types of disasters continues to rise in 2005. In total, 157 million people–seven million more than in 2004–required immediate assistance, were evacuated, injured or lost their livelihoods.
Despite this, loss of life was significantly lower than in 2004, during which 244,500 people died as a result of natural hazards. Although the numbers of people killed in the last two years is high compared to figures from the last decade, Sapir, pointed out that in 2004 and 2005, most disaster-related deaths were due to a single incident of devastating proportions:
The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, accounting for 92 percent, and the 2005 South Asian earthquake, for 81 percent of deaths in each respective year.
According to CRED’s analysis, the decrease in deaths is directly linked to the type of disasters that occurred last year. Floods and droughts directly impact large numbers of people and their economic livelihoods but are less likely to cause loss of life as in earthquakes and windstorms.
“The key issue to remember,” said ISDR Director Salvano Briceno, “Is not the number of disasters but their economic and social impact on development and in particular on vulnerable populations. Just one disaster can wipe off the economy of a whole region or country and put hundreds of thousands people at risk of economic and social marginalization.”
Disasters in 2005 cost a total of 159 billion USD in damage, although out of this figure, 125 billion USD were for losses caused by Hurricane Katrina in the United States.
Notwithstanding, costs incurred from disaster damage rose by 71 per cent from the total 92.9 billion USD in 2004.
Additional threats such as global warming, environmental degradation and rapid urbanization continue to make millions of people more vulnerable to natural hazards every year.
“These figures re-affirm trends we have been observing for the past decade,” said Briceno. “Less people are dying from disasters, but there are many more long-term, negative implications for sustainable human development. Countries and communities need to understand their risks, invest in resources and prioritize their policies to reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards. It is the only way to spare lives, reduce economic and environmental destruction when the next disaster hits.”
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