Natural catastrophes, most of which were weather related, cost an estimated $56 billion between January and September 2002 alone—a 93 per cent increase on 2001 figures.
Future scenarios envisage annual economic losses from natural disasters reaching $150 billion. Insured losses in 2002 totalled $9 billion, placing a serious burden in the insurance and finance sectors.
The most common climate-related disaster in the Asia-Pacific region and include seasonal floods, flash floods, urban floods.
In Bangladesh, as many as 80 million people are vulnerable to flooding each year.
In India, where a total of 40 million hectares is at risk from flooding each year, the average annual direct damage has been estimated at US$ 240 million, although this figure can increase to over US$ 1.5 billion with severe flood events
In India, about 33 per cent of the arable land is considered to be drought-prone (i.e. about 14 per cent of the total land area of the country) and a further 35 per cent can also be affected if rainfall is exceptionally low for extended periods.
Nepal has been subjected to severe droughts in the past. The Philippines, Thailand, Australia and the Pacific islands of Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa also contain drought-prone areas.
The Asia-Pacific region alone has recorded 70 per cent of the world’s earthquakes measuring 7 or more on the Richter scale, at an average rate of 15 events per year.
Countries of the region which are badly affected by earthquakes include Japan, the Philippines, India, Nepal, Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Pacific Islands.
Many of the countries in the region are located in the Pacific Ocean Seismic Zone or the Indian Ocean Seismic Zone. For example, 50–60 per cent of India is vulnerable to seismic activities of varying intensity.
Tsunamis, tidal waves generated by earthquakes, affect many of the coastal areas of the region, including those of Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines. The infamous Krakatau volcanic eruption during 1883 in Sunda Straits, Indonesia, generated a 35 metre high tsunami which caused 36,000 deaths and the tsunami of 17 August 1976 in the Moro Gulf area of the Philippines claimed another 8,000 lives
Deadly Tsunami of Japan is worst in recent history and videoed on real time.
Volcanoes, like earthquakes, are located mainly along the Pacific Rim. The countries at risk from volcanic eruptions include the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
Those most frequently affected are Indonesia (129 active volcanoes), Japan (77) and the Philippines (21).
The eruptions of Mount Pinatubo in Central Luzon during the period 12–15 June 1991 affected about 1–2 million people, demolished the surrounding forests, caused massive siltation of rivers and coastal areas and deposited ash in surrounding areas and across continents.
Introduced by United Nations Development Program in 2004 and demonstrates that populations in wealthy countries represent 15 percent of those exposed to natural disasters, but only 1.8 percent of those who are killed.
i.e., disasters are more deadly in poorer countries
This index measures and compares physical exposure to hazard, vulnerability and risk between countries and demonstrates a clear link between human development and death rates following natural disasters.
The index provides the physical exposure levels and relative vulnerability for more than 200 countries and territories. These figures were determined by comparing the number of people exposed in relation to population and then mapping it in a geographical information system.
By evaluating the number of people killed annually from 1980 to 2000 with the number of exposed people, UNDP has been able to compare countries vulnerabilities to different natural hazards
In Iran, for example (excluding the earthquake in December 2004) an average of 1,074 people were killed each year in earthquakes between 1980 and 2000, for every 1 million inhabitants exposed.
By comparison, 0.97 were killed each year per 1 million exposed in the United States. In other words, the relative vulnerability of Iranians to earthquake is over 1000 times greater that the relative vulnerability of Americans and over 100 times greater than the relative vulnerability of the Japanese.
High vulnerability to earthquakes was found in countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and India.
Other medium development countries with sizeable urban populations such as Turkey and the Russian Federation were also found to have high levels of vulnerability, as well as Armenia (highest on the relative vulnerability list).
196 million people in more than 90 countries are annually exposed. High vulnerability was identified in a wide range of countries and is likely to be aggravated by global climate change.
In Venezuela (topping the list for floods), high vulnerability was due to a single catastrophic event. Other countries with high vulnerability to floods included Somalia, Morocco, and Bhutan. Low GDP per capita, low local density of population and high physical exposure were associated with high risk to floods.
Although capturing widespread attention in recent years, Germany has very low relative human vulnerability to floods. For example 0.25 people were killed each year per 1 million exposed in Germany, compared with 67 in Mozambique from 1980-2000 .
African states were shown to have the highest vulnerability to drought. 796.77 per 1 million lives were claimed by drought in Africa, while only 0.04 per 1 million died in Europe, almost a ratio of 20,000:1
The study found that drought would lead to famine more quickly in connection with armed conflict, internal population displacement, HIV/AIDS, poor governance and economic crisis.
Desertification is increasing worldwide, especially in Africa.
There is a strong correlation between earthquake risk and rapid urban growth, typified by rapidly urbanizing medium development countries.
Rapid urban growth is often associated with a lack of application of appropriate building standards or land use planning, and the deterioration of older densely packed inner city areas – all factors that increase earthquake risk
Countries with low GDP per capita, low densities of population (in flood prone areas) and high numbers of exposed people are most at risk from floods.
Mortality was higher in countries with sparsely populated, poor rural areas where disaster preparedness and early warning is non-existent and where health coverage is usually weak or not easily accessible.
In such areas, people have less possibility to evacuate from flood prone areas and are more vulnerable to death through flood related diseases.