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Disasters2012 economic losses from disasters set new record at $138 billion

Published 15 March 2013

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) reported that for the first time in history, the world has experienced three consecutive years in which annual economic losses have exceeded $100 billion. The losses are the result of an enormous increase in exposure of industrial assets and private property to extreme disaster events.

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) the other day stated that for the first time in history, the world has experienced three consecutive years in which annual economic losses have exceeded $100 billion due to an enormous increase in exposure of industrial assets and private property to extreme disaster events.

UNISDR director, Elizabeth Longworth, speaking at a press briefing, said: “A review of economic losses caused by major disaster events since 1980 shows that since the mid-1990s there has been a rise in economic losses and this has turned into an upward trend as confirmed by the losses from last year when, despite no mega-disaster such as a major urban earthquake, economic losses are conservatively estimated in the region of $138 billion.”

It has happened on nine occasions since including the last three years: 2010 ($138 billion), 2011 ($371 billion), and 2012 ($138 billion). Some 310 disasters killed over 9,300 people in 2012, affected 106 million others, and cost $138 billion (mainly in the United States, Italy, and China).

The year was particularly marked by the fact that there were no mega-disasters in terms of human impact. The deadliest event was Typhoon Bopha which hit the Philippines in December with more than 1,900 dead and missing. Asia, once more, showed itself to be the most disaster-prone part of the world both in terms of number of disasters and the number of victims.

On the other hand, 63 percent of the economic losses were in the Americas, mainly due to Hurricane Sandy ($50 billion) and the drought ($20 billion). Europe was hit by two long cold waves at the beginning and end of the year, killing almost 1,000 people, and Africa was severely affected by drought but also by floods such as those in Nigeria which took more than 300 lives.

Globally, most victims this year were from floods and droughts which were responsible for nearly 80 percent of all victims. But as they occur in poorer countries, the economic losses are low. Even so, the floods of Pakistan cost nearly 2 percent of its annual GDP which is a lot to recover. Disasters are a major problem in all poor countries and threats to global security. They should be taken seriously,” said Prof. Debby Guha-Sapir, director of CRED at the University of Louvain, Belgium.