The Most Natural Disaster Prone Countries in Modern History
Now that we’ve all survived the Mayan apocalypse prophecy and are well on our way with 2013, we thought we’d take a look at some of the incidents that have occurred since the millenium that may have persuaded people to believe in our (previously) impending doom. There have been an abundance of natural disasters in the last 2 years alone, with earthquakes, monster storms and floods destroying land and taking lives across the globe.
We’re going to look at the most profligate countries for natural disasters, and some of the most costly disasters for insurers. Next time you’re ready to book that family holiday, or if you should happen to live in any of these places, make sure you have a good international health insurance policy so that you’ll be covered if mother nature decides to rear her angry head and inconsiderately smite your destination.
As it is probably the most recent country in peoples minds for natural disasters, let’s start with…
Called a ‘Superstorm’ or ‘Frankenstorm’, Hurricane Sandy raged along the east coast of America in October of last year (2012) to devastating effect. Sandy erupted as a combination of a 990 foot wide hurricane meeting another large storm, high tides, and a surging cold front along the east of the USA. This led to a ‘Superstorm’ that put 50 million people in danger, caused massive devastation to property (estimated in the US$20 billion range) and caused New York to be without power for days. With the cost of damages totalling only $20 billion (only!) this ranks Sandy as 6th most damaging storm in American history following hurricanes; Andrew, Ike, Wilma, Ivan, and the granddaddy of expensive storms, Katrina.
Hurricane Katrina waged a weather war on America in 2005, mostly devastating Louisiana in the south of the States. Katrina was the single most expensive Western insurance incident to date with damages worth over US$81 billion and a cost to insurers of $41 billion. This natural disaster also led to the death of over 1,800 people and left thousands of others homeless and having to resort to slums and camps throughout the state. Citizens of New Orleans were still feeling the effects of Katrina 5 years later, having to live in shanty towns and shacks as the US government had yet to replace their homes or reconfigure the infrastructure of the once beautiful city. For a developed nation, this is shocking, particularly when considering how quickly other nations such as Japan have managed to recuperate from their natural disaster losses (as will be seen below).
In case we haven’t dissuaded you from visiting America – particularly during hurricane season – just yet, there’s one final statistic to take note of. In 2011, the American midwest suffered a torrent of tornadoes. 10 major weather disasters led to more than $45 billion in damages. The month of April alone saw a freak 748 tornadoes (a new monthly record) and more than 500 deaths, costing US$24 billion in damages.
Japan has suffered from numerous natural disasters in recent years, and its people seem to be constantly having to rebuild their country whether it be it from tsunamis or earthquakes. (We were going to add godzilla to this list, but restrained ourselves. Look at how mature we are.)
Japan suffered a devastating earthquake on March 11th, 2011 that registered a magnitude of 9.0 on the richter scale, which is high, so high in fact that it was the 4th largest recorded earthquake ever. The earthquake caused 20,000 deaths/missing people, and cost Japan an estimated US$200-300bn.
There were further scares at the end of 2012 when another earthquake-tsunami combo was predicted to hit Japan, so soon after having recovered from 2011’s devastating event. Thankfully, the consequences were not as drastic, with reports of a small tsunami and a much less severe earthquake, but no casualties reported. Regardless, the area is highly prone to disaster.
The earthquakes and tsunamis have destroyed peoples homes and the country’s infrastructure. The 2011 quake left 330,000 people in temporary accommodation or homeless. Worryingly, the 2011 earthquake also caused the Fukushima Power Plant to malfunction, and 200,000 people had to be evacuated to prevent further deaths (and potential superpowers) as a result of the reactor meltdown.
In contrast to America though, Japan and its people are exceptional at quickly restoring their country. The destruction caused during the 2011 earthquake-tsunami was largely restored within the year, as can be seen here, which is a testament to the organisation and resilience of Japan.
Some other notable earthquake prone areas are:
New Zealand: In 2011 Christchurch, New Zealand suffered an earthquake reaching 6.3 on the richter scale, disturbing hobbits and dwarves nationwide. The earthquake caused 185 deaths, and $12 billion in damages.
Haiti suffered an awful earthquake in 2010 that left 316,000 people dead, and over a million people homeless. Many of these people are living in slums still to this day whilst arguments about aid distribution, rebuilding the island’s infrastructure, and the electing of a new government continue.
China is also incredibly earthquake prone. Due to poor infrastructure and a huge population, natural disasters in China affect an incredible number of people. More than 15 million people were immediately affected in 2008 when a 7.9 quake took roughly 80,000 lives in Sichuan. The government pledged US$146.5 billion to rebuild the affected areas. This was the 3rd most expensive disaster in the world ever, and the costliest in China.
This island nation was not the only country affected by 2004’s Indian Ocean earthquake, and resulting tsunami, but it was the most significantly devastated. The ‘undersea megathrust earthquake’ (and tsunami) registered at 9.1-9.3 which is the 3rd largest recorded earthquake on a seismograph ever. It caused approximately 250,000 deaths and massive devastation to Indonesia as well as Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. However, the overall losses economically were relatively low due to the economic status of the region. This is small consolation for the dire loss of life suffered by the tsunami in what was one of the biggest catastrophes of the new millenium, and saw humanitarian efforts worldwide gather US$14 billion in aid.
Other areas that have been severely affected by tsunamis or mass flooding include:
The Philippines: The Philippines suffered a number of typhoons and floods in 2011, and further floods caused by days of endless rain in 2012. These floods gave Manila at least 20 inches of rain, and led to hundreds of thousands of people being left homeless.
Thailand: Thailand also frequently suffers from floods, with 2011 being the most devastating year in recent memory. That summer, much of Thailand including the capital, Bangkok, was flooded with some parts remaining so until January 2012. The floods caused over 800 deaths, and affected millions with over 20,000 square km of farmland damaged.
Australia: Floods and fires consume much of Australia and do so regularly, including numerous incidents already this year, as well as in 2012 and 2011. Inconsiderately of Mother Nature, these events rarely occur at the same time in the same place thereby solving the problems they cause, and so Australia remains a dangerous place to visit for natural disasters.
An Honorable Mention:
Prehistoric Earth: This strictly isn’t a place, more a time, or a point in spacetime, but that means that quantumly pre-historic earth exists somewhere (somewhen?) and so we’re counting it. Prehistoric Earth has perhaps the worst natural disasters of all, with one event standing out as the most devastating event in non-human history. Whatever it was that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs; an asteroid causing fires, darkness, and starvation, or seismic shifts in the Earth’s layers causing environmental disruption and death, you can be sure that it was worse than any natural disaster we’ve witnessed because it wiped out the dinosaurs! Anything that wiped out giant lizards would have definitely destroyed us, so let’s all be thankful that we’re not there/then!