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natural disasters

So-called natural disasters are not unpredictable

Niels Holm-Nielsen's picture

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No two earthquakes in the world cause equal damage, according to scientists. This is particularly true in Latin America, a land of contrasts.

Whereas in 2010, an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale ravaged Haiti, claiming nearly a quarter of a million lives, a few weeks ago in Mexico, an earthquake of similar magnitude (7.4) caused only a few cracks and minor injuries.

Live web chat - How can cities prepare for and manage floods?

Claudia Gabarain's picture

Copyright Gideon MendelFloods are the most frequent among all natural disasters. In 2010 alone, 178 million people globally were affected by floods. More than 90 % of the global population exposed to floods lives in Asia.


Seven years on: Remembering the tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia

David Lawrence's picture

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The number just kept getting bigger and bigger. At first it was a staggering 13,000. The next day, over 25,000. And then, 58,000. By the end of the week, on January 1st, 2005, the death toll of the Asian Tsunami had reached 122,000. Yet the number kept climbing, and nobody knew when it would stop. 

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What will it take to confront global crises?

Vinod Thomas's picture

Three interlinked global crises—food, economic, climate—were high on the agenda of this year’s Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. At a conference organized by the Independent Evaluation Group and World Bank Institute, a panel of experts—Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner; Hans Herren, President, Millennium Institute; Trevor Manuel, Minister, National Planning Commission, South Africa; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director, World Bank; Robert Watson, Chief Scientific Advisor, Government of UK— discussed not only the impact of each crisis, but crucially the links among them in seeking joint solutions.

A High Cost to Bangladesh if it Remains Unprepared for Climate Change

Susmita Dasgupta's picture

Global warming may have severe consequences for developing countries prone to extreme weather events. Projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Meteorological Organization suggest the frequencies and/or intensities of climate extremes will increase in the 21st century. Some recent extreme weather events illustrate how severe their consequences can be. Examples include heavy floods in Australia and Brazil in 2011, extreme winter weather all over Europe, heat wave in Russia, devastating floods in Pakistan, India, China, and Mozambique in 2010, and super cyclones in Myanmar (in 2008) and Bangladesh (in 2007).


Otaviano Canuto's picture

Earlier this month, Japan experienced one of the worst natural disasters in its history, an earthquake and subsequent tsunami that claimed the lives of thousands of people and drastically changed the lives of countless more. Sadly, this tragedy is another in a string of natural disasters that have occurred over the past few years, such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, wildfires in Russia, and floods in Pakistan, West Africa, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and Australia.

Are buildings an important piece of the climate puzzle?

Alan Miller's picture



They inhabit two different worlds—buildings and climate change—both outside and within the World Bank. It should not be that way as the building sector could be central to both mitigation and adaptation efforts.  


Buildings are important for climate mitigation because they account for about 30% of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Energy agency (IEA), energy use in this sector is expected to increase globally about 30 % over the next two decades if recent trends continue; however, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report concludes buildings offer by far the largest potential source for low cost reductions in CO2 emissions. The World Bank has many projects and analyses addressing this opportunity including a recent ESMAP (Energy Sector Management Assistance Program) report on the benefits and obstacles to effective building codes. These could address over 60 % of building energy use but remain weak and often unenforced in most Bank client countries.

Time to wake up to disaster prevention, Asia

Abhas Jha's picture
A power substation in Yingxhou, Sichuan Province was almost totally destroyed in the magnitude 7.9 Sichuan-Wenchuan earthquake in 2008.

The statistics are startling. 75% of global flood mortality risk is concentrated in only three Asian countries: Bangladesh, China and India. 85 % of deaths from tropical cyclones are in just two Asian countries: Bangladesh and India. Indeed, Bangladesh alone accounts for over three-quarters of people dying from tropical cyclones. 85% of global earthquake risk is concentrated in only 12% of the earth’s surface—a large part of it in Asia. In 2009, six of the ten countries with the highest mortality rates and GDP losses from natural disasters were in Asia.  82% of all lives lost in disasters since 1997, are in Asian countries.

Avoiding Disaster After the Disaster

Paul Mitchell's picture

If the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami off Indonesia in 2004 have shown us anything it is that large scale natural catastrophes are not rare. Calamities that claim tens of thousands of lives happen with regularity (about every four years on average). Many others claim a smaller number of lives but are equally devastating to local communities. The claims that these disasters are unique “100 year events”, which cannot be predicated and therefore cannot be planned for, are increasingly hollow.