2008 Disaster Deaths Spike to Three Times the Yearly Average

Disasters such as Cyclone Nargis and the Sichuan earthquake helped drive disaster deaths to three times the normal yearly rate and doubled disaster costs for the year, according to a U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction report released January 22 (http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/retrieveattachments?openagent&shortid=LSGZ-7NJKJV&file=Full_Report.pdf). The report, which used Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) data from 2000-2008, found nearly 234,000 died as the result of 321 disasters last year.

The annual average number of deaths for the previous seven years is 66,812. Missing and dead Nargis victims number 138,366 and another 87,476 were lost to the Sichuan quake, according to the report.

“The dramatic increase in human and economic losses from disasters in 2008 is alarming,” UNISDR Director Salvano Briceño stated. “Sadly, these losses could have been substantially reduced if buildings in China, particularly schools and hospitals, had been built to be more earthquake-resilient. An effective early warning system with good community preparedness could have also saved many lives in Myanmar if it had been implemented before Cyclone Nargis.”

Oppositionally, both the number of disasters and the number of people affected by disasters were lower than average for the same time period. CRED data can be accessed in a number of ways on the EM-DAT Emergency Events Database Web site at http://www.emdat.be/Database/terms.html.

story courtesy of the Disaster Research newsletter from the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder