Natural Disasters In Asia

Asia is the most disaster-prone region in the world. The region has borne brunt of the physical and economic damages of natural disasters. According to data collected by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), human toll from natural disasters in the last 100 years has been staggering. As the graph indicates, draughts have claimed more lives than any other natural disaster in Asia. Since 1900, droughts have killed 9,663,389 people, floods 6,794,304, earthquakes 1,559,558, cyclones 1,242,150 and Tsunamis 261,915 people. The region remains exposed to more natural disasters and according to the Asian Development Bank, the region’s economic progress will be undermined by the rising number of floods, landslides and other disasters. That provides a stark reminder that Asia’s many densely populated and expanding coastal cities will in particular remain vulnerable to weather-related disasters such as storms and floods.

Casualties in the last 10 years

Statistics provide hunting reminder that no country is without risk of being hit by natural disasters. Floods, earthquakes and cyclones have wreaked havoc across Asia, killing people, wiping out homes, livelihoods and leaving economies in distress. The region occupies 30% of the world's land mass, but 40% of the world's disasters occurred in the region in the past decade, resulting in a disproportionate 80% of the world's disaster deaths. During the last 10 years, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, majority of deaths in Asia were caused by earthquakes. Floods have killed 17,442 people while as cyclones were responsible for 13,368 deaths in the region. As the graph shows, earthquakes have led to massive loss of human lives in China, Pakistan, Indonesia and India. Floods and cyclones have killed more people in Thailand and the Philippines.

Tsunami: Asia’s Deadliest Natural Disaster

The Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004 killed over 220,000 people according to the United Nations and made millions homeless, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history. The Tsunami which radiated on 26 December 2004 from the epicenter near the West coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, slammed into the coastline of 11 Indian Ocean countries, demolishing everything which came in its path. The victims were mostly the poor, vulnerable and living in remote areas. On top of the casualties, many more people were reported missing, more than half a million people were left without a home as entire villages were destroyed. Besides devastating parts of Indonesia, the tsunami wreaked havoc in Sri Lanka, India and Thailand and in many other countries. The unprecedented geographical scope and the number of people killed made the Tsunami one of the worst natural disasters in Asia. The graph demonstrates that Indonesia was the hardest-hit country by the Tsunami, followed by Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and others.

Economic Loss Due To Disasters

From floods to earthquake to other natural disasters, the past century has seen devastating disasters. Each disaster has left behind death and destruction and huge economic loses. Major economic losses in the region are predominantly due to earthquakes and tsunamis, the region’s most destructive disasters which ironically also occur frequently. To put the financial losses for one year in perspective, in 2012 alone Asia lost US$15 billion due to natural disasters, according to data released by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). This is a drop from 2011, when the region recorded a staggering $300 billion loss mostly due to Japan’s tsunami and Thailand’s floods. If you look at the larger picture, disasters have taken a heavy toll on the region’s economy in the last 100 years. Particularly floods have caused more financial damage than any other natural disasters.

Asia’s Desertification Vulnerability

About 40% of the earth’s land area is threatened by desertification, a term used to define land degradation in which fertile land transforms into desert. It is estimated that every year about 12 million hectares of fertile land is turning into desert mostly due to deforestation and drought, according to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. Desertification is aggravated by climate change and human activities and it is estimated that by 2030, water scarcity in some places will displace up to 700 million people. Nine Asian Development Bank member countries including China, India and Pakistan, have large land areas within the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid zones and therefore, as the table shows, these countries remain most vulnerable to desertification. India with a total of 1,649,557 square kilometers of areas is topping the list of extremely vulnerable countries to desertification. The table provides an overview of the total land area of Asian countries and land vulnerable to desertification.: