Human and economic costs of natural disasters

Among these natural disasters, the most frequent and the ones that cause most damages are earthquakes. On average, a magnitude 8 quake strikes somewhere every year and some 10,000 people die in earthquakes annually. Collapsing buildings claim by far the majority of lives, but the destruction is often compounded by mud slides, fires, floods, or tsunamis. Flooding causes by the latter can extend inland by a thousand feet (300 meters) or more. The enormous energy of a tsunami can lift giant boulders, flip vehicles, and demolish houses. On the other hand, the effects of volcanic eruptions are varied and include the eruptions itself, the fall of a rock, flowing lava, the ash cloud, and pyrolastic flows.

One of the deadliest earthquakes in the last 15 years is the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which killed more than 200,000 and affected more than 3 million people. The pre-existing poverty and poor housing conditions in the country exacerbated the damages, which also include more than 250,000 residences and commercial buildings that collapsed or were severely damaged. A similar number of deaths has been estimated for the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, which was produced by one of the largest earthquakes recorded. The impact of the tsunami can be appreciated in the number of countries (14) that were hit by the wave. On the other hand, volcanic eruptions are not as deadly as earthquakes and tsunamis, but can significantly affect human lives in other aspects. For example, the ash cloud from the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland provoked the closing of nearly 20 countries' airspace to commercial jet traffic, affecting about 10 million travellers.

  • Sources:
  • Data sources:
    • The International Disaster Database: