Thursday, January 19, 2012

Quakes make 2011 a costly year

Prevention Web: For two consecutive years the long-term disasters trend has been bucked by major earthquakes which claimed thousands of lives and affected millions in both 2010 and 2011, according to new statistics published today by CRED and the UN office for disaster risk reduction, UNISDR.

UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström, said today: “The Great East Japan Earthquake and the accompanying tsunami is a reminder to us all that we cannot afford to ignore the lessons of history no matter how forgotten. The many major cities located in seismic zones need to take seriously the probability of return events even if many years have passed since the last seismic event of major magnitude.

“In 2010 we saw this phenomenon as well when over 220,000 people died in Haiti which had not been hit by an earthquake of such strength for almost 200 years. Unless we prepare for the worst then many earthquake-prone urban areas around the world are destined to see even greater loss of life in the future as more and more people move to cities.”

Figures released today by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at a UNISDR-hosted press conference in Geneva showed that 20,943 people lost their lives in earthquakes last year out of a total of 29,782 people directly killed by 302 disasters. The earthquake fatalities included 19,846 who died in Japan while the remainder were largely accounted for by the October earthquake in Turkey.

The year was marked by the fact that major disasters in terms of human impact and economic losses occurred in high and middle-income countries. These included the Brazil floods (January); the New Zealand earthquake (February); the Japan earthquake/tsunami (March); two waves of severe storms and tornadoes in the USA (April and May); Hurricane Irene in the USA, (August/September); floods in Thailand (August to December); the October earthquake in Turkey and the December storm Sendong (Washi) in the Philippines....

Photo of damage to the Sydenham Heritage Church sustained during the 2011 New Zealand earthquake, shot by Peter Walker, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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