AP Examines 2010 Natural Disasters’ Death Toll

“Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010 – the deadliest year in more than a generation,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. According to global reinsurer Swiss Re, these disasters “caused $222 billion in economic losses in 2010 – more than Hong Kong’s economy.”

The article reports that “[p]oor construction and development practices conspire to make earthquakes more deadly than they need be. More people live in poverty in vulnerable buildings in crowded cities. That means that when the ground shakes, the river breaches, or the tropical cyclone hits, more people die.” Case in point is Haiti, where 220,000 people died after an earthquake in January. The country’s capital of “Port-au-Prince has nearly three times as many people – many of them living in poverty – and more poorly built shanties than it did 25 years ago. … In February, an earthquake that was more than 500 times stronger than the one that struck Haiti hit an area of Chile that was less populated, better constructed, and not as poor. Chile’s bigger quake caused fewer than 1,000 deaths.”

“While the Haitian earthquake, Russian heat wave, and Pakistani flooding were the biggest killers … [f]looding alone this year killed more than 6,300 people in 59 nations through September, according to the World Health Organization. In the United States, 30 people died in the Nashville, Tenn., region in flooding. Inundated countries include China, Italy, India, Colombia and Chad. Super Typhoon Megi with winds of more than 200 mph devastated the Philippines and parts of China.”  

The article looks at the toll of other natural disasters throughout the world and features interviews with a variety of climate experts on the issue (Borenstein/Reed Bell, 12/20).

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