Natural Disasters Cost $109 Billion in 2010

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Thanks to the Chilean earthquake and landslides and floods in China, the economy took a $109 billion hit last year—three times more than in 2009, the United Nations reported today.

Data compiled by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), an organization that, in partnership with the World Health Organization, focuses on the fields of international disaster and conflict health studies, with research and training activities linking relief, rehabilitation and development, confirmed that the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile in February of 2010 cost $30 billion. Landslides and floods last summer in China caused $18 billion in losses, notes CRED.

Of the 373 disasters recorded last year, 22 were in China, 16 were in India and 14 were in the Philippines, CRED said.

The organization reports that Haiti's Jan. 12 earthquake was the deadliest event of 2010, killing 316,000 people according to the government in Port-au-Prince, yet its economic toll was $8 billion. Pakistan’s summer 2010 floods cost that country $9.5 billion.

Fast-developing countries are facing increasing price tags from natural disasters, noted Margareta Wahlstrom, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for disaster risk reduction.

"The accumulated wealth that is affected by disaster events is growing," she told a news briefing in Geneva, where most of the U.N.'s emergency and aid operations are based.

Cities are especially vulnerable to large disaster-related economic losses when they have a poorly maintained infrastructure, Wahlstrom added.

"With more extreme weather events, and more earthquakes in urban areas, the state of repair or disrepair in urban areas is really critical," she said.

Populous cities that happen to be in earthquake-prone areas include Mexico City, New York, Mumbai, Delhi, Shanghai, Kolkata, Jakarta and Tokyo, according to the U.N.'s International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

Wahlstrom noted that “silent events,” such as droughts, also bear consideration as a serious risk, along with urban areas that are vulnerable to landslides and floods, all the result of climate change.

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