Sixty-million people were affected by extreme weather in 2018, according to a new study by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. Earthquakes and tsunamis claimed more lives than any other type of hazard, while floods, droughts, storms and wildfires affected more than 57 million people. The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has called for better management of the issue worldwide.
Floods affected more than 35 million people – with 23 million in the Indian State of Kerala alone. Storms are expected to be the costliest type of disaster once final economic losses are compiled. Damages caused by Hurricane Michael on the eastern seaboard of the United States are estimated at $16 billion.
The United States also experienced the deadliest wildfire in more than a century. It also was the costliest on record.
Drought affected 9 million people worldwide, with the Kenyan population accounting for a third of the total followed by Central American countries – 2.5 million people.
The human impact of all disasters, particularly drought and extreme temperatures, is poorly reported. That’s according to Debarati Guha-Sapir, who leads the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. Approaches that measure progress and report on specific Sustainable Development Goal targets need to be urgently addressed by appropriate UN agencies, she said.
Climate-change adaptation needs must be prioritized, said Mami Mizutori, special representative of the secretary-general for disaster-risk reduction. Mizutori also leads the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. Needed are global measures such as avoiding creation of new risk through better land use, safeguarding protective ecosystems, reducing poverty and taking active measures to reduce exposure to rising sea levels, she said.
The study by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters summarized the impacts of global disasters.
Droughts and extreme temperatures – the impact of climate change on humans will increasingly be felt through drought and extreme temperatures. Three million people in 2018 were affected by an ongoing drought in Kenya. Afghanistan suffered a major drought that impacted 2.2 million people, causing internal displacement of thousands.
Droughts affected more than 2.5 million people in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, which coincided with international migration patterns. A hot and dry summer in Europe caused heatwaves and drought conditions affecting farmers and health systems in numerous countries.
Floods – the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters recorded 108 events worldwide in 2018. Floods have affected more people than any other type of natural hazard in the 21st century, including 2018.
More than 700,000 people were affected by flooding in Somalia, which already suffers from an ongoing conflict. Flooding cost 300 Nigerians their lives and impacted an estimated 4 million people. Heavy rains triggered Japan’s deadliest floods since 1982, killing 230 people.
The August flooding of India’s Kerala state resulted in 504 deaths. And more than two-thirds of the state’s residents were affected – more than 23 million people.
Storms impact millions of people every year and create billions of dollars in damages. Two major storms struck the United States in 2018 – Hurricane Florence was estimated to cost $14 billion in damages, and Hurricane Michael to cost $16 billion.
Wildfires – the Attica Fires in Greece killed an estimated 126 people, making it the deadliest wildfire recorded in Europe within the emergency-events database records at the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.
The California wildfires were the deadliest and costliest on record, with Camp Fire killing 88 people, the greatest wildfire death toll in the country since the 1920s. It caused an estimated $16.5 billion in damage, the costliest wildfire event on record.
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