UN: 2010 deadliest year for natural disasters in two decades

natural disasters

natural disasters

Nearly 300,000 people were killed in natural disasters around the world in 2010. Those disasters affected over 200 million people and cost nearly 110 billion dollars; that’s according to the UN agency on disaster reduction (ISDR). Jocelyne Sambira reports.

The January earthquake in Haiti and the Russian summer heat wave led to most deaths making 2010 the deadliest year in at least two decades.

The Haiti deaths estimated at 225,000 make up for two thirds of the fatalities, Debarati Guha Sapir, Director of CRED, the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at the University of Louvain in Belgium.

“Really the 2010 was an extremely what we would call in French, “meurtrier”, it was really a year in which a lot of people died, but a very large proportion of the people who died were of course from the Haiti earthquake. So about, two thirds of this number came just from this one disaster.”

Russia, number two on the list of lethal disasters, caused 56,000 deaths in the city of Moscow alone.

China and Pakistan’s natural disasters are also amongst the top ten lethal disasters, and rated as the most costly.

The figures are bad, says Margareta Wahlstrom, UN Special Representative for Disaster Reduction. Not only in terms of people killed but also in terms of economic losses.

“Disasters are hitting all countries, you have seen it this year: Australia- rich, well prepared- but still overtaken by major events and it is still continuing. Last year started equally as horribly and it never stopped. Between earthquakes and floods, rich and poor countries, middle income countries, no one is excluded from the impact of extreme events these days.”

What the disaster data shows, adds Wahlstrom, is that we should be better prepared for these emergencies.

“If you want to save lives, you have to be prepared. You cannot consider a disaster as something that happens once, then you continue your life and you get very surprised when it happens next time. No. It’s also about people understanding and realizing that the risk also affects me. Secondly, the entire country the community the city, are prepared to act on early warning signals, that’s the way you save lives. You also save lives through a better infrastructure. The state of repair or dis-repair of infrastructure is really critical. “

It is not the earthquakes that kill people, notes Wahlstrom, it is the collapsing infrastructure that does.

Jocelyne Sambira at the United Nations.

duration: 2’32″

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