January 28, 2010

Earthquakes Biggest Killer Over Last 10 Years

A UN-sponsored report finds that more people died from earthquakes in the past decade than from any other disaster.

Studies show more than 780,000 people were killed in nearly 4,000 disasters. These catastrophic events affected more than two billion other people and cost a minimum of $960 billion in economic losses.

Guha Sapir of the Center for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters said climate events affected far more people and the threats for these events are increasing.

"Most of the affected people are due to climate related events and the economic losses are largely due to floods and storms," Sapir told the AFP news agency.

"It is not clear that climate change itself is an important factor in this increase," he 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." 

Storms accounted for 22 percent of the overall death toll while extreme temperatures claimed 11 percent of lives lost in 3,852 disasters over the period.

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 current decade has gotten off to an equally deadly start, with about 170,000 feared dead in the powerful and unprecedented earthquake that struck Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area on January 12.

Although the number of disasters have increased over the years, the number of people affected by them has dropped dramatically.

Experts say 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.


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