Record economic losses from emergencies top $100 billion for third year, UN says

Children in Mindanao, Philippines, where Typhoon Bopha affected more than 6.2 million people, killing over one thousand and displacing at least 800,000 people. Photo: OCHA

14 March 2013 – Thousands of people were killed in extreme disaster events in 2012 with more than $100 billion in property losses for a third year in a row, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said today, attributing the growing trend to increased exposure of industrial assets and private property to earthquakes, hurricanes and other extreme events.

According to the figures unveiled today, some 310 disasters in 2012 killed more than 9,300 people and affected 106 million others, while causing $138 billion worth of damage, mainly in the United States, Italy and China.

“A review of economic losses caused by major disaster events since 1980 shows that since the mid-90s there has been a rise in economic losses and this has turned into an upward trend,” UNISDR Director, Elizabeth Longworth, told journalists in Geneva.

“Despite no mega-disaster such as a major urban earthquake, economic losses are conservatively estimated in the region of $138 billion,” Ms. Longworth said noting the disaster events last year.

Asia tops the list again as the most disaster-prone part of the world, both in terms of number of disasters and the number of victims. Typhoon Bopha, known locally as Typhoon Pablo, hit the island of Mindanao, Philippines, on 4 December packing winds of 160 mph (260 km/h). The Typhoon left 1,900 people dead or missing. More than 210,000 houses, vital public infrastructure, and vast tracts of agricultural land were severely damaged or destroyed.

The Americas accounted for 63 per cent of the economic losses, mainly due to Hurricane Sandy and widespread drought, causing damages of $50 billion and $20 billion, respectively.

Europe was hit by two long cold waves at the beginning and end of the year killing almost 1,000 people. Drought and floods also severely affected many regions of Africa.

Floods and droughts were responsible for nearly 80 per cent of the people killed or injured by disasters in 2012, according to the World Health Organization collaborating Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Louvain, Belgium. However, since they mostly occurred in poorer countries, the economic losses were low.

“Even so, the floods of Pakistan cost nearly 2 per cent of its annual GDP which is a lot to recover,” the Director of CRED, Debby Guha-Sapir, said in a statement.

“Disasters are a major problem in all poor countries and threats to global security. They should be taken seriously,” she added.


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