Floods 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.
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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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|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.
|Explaining the housing program admistered by the Multi-Donor Fund to a group of residents.|
(Geumala Yatim, who started working with communities in Aceh soon after the 2004 tsunami hit, is writing a book about her experiences there. This is adapted from one of its chapters).
At the time, I was at my friend Oscar’s house, getting ready to attend a Christmas party at another friend’s house. Oscar asked me to turn the TV on to CNN or BBC. “I heard there’s a big natural disaster somewhere on the tip of Sumatra. Aceh probably. Not sure,” he said. Up until we left the house, both channels were relaying non-stop reports on natural disasters in Thailand and Sri Lanka. No reports on what was happening on the tip of Sumatra thus far.
It surprised me a little bit when I was driving my family along the west coast of Aceh a couple of weeks ago. Not too far from Banda Aceh, the capital city of Aceh’s province, a 15 meters wide- fresh-paved asphalt road built by the US absolutely has framed Aceh into another window of opportunity. This strategic road will connect Banda Aceh and some other districts in the west coast, which was washed away by the tsunami.
As advanced by my colleague James a few days ago, here's a second slideshow on natural disasters in Vietnam, this time showing prevention and mitigation measures put in place across the country. Again, the photos are striking. And the actions, varied and ingenious.
Some of my colleagues in the Vietnam office of the World Bank, working with Sai Gon Tiep Thi newspapers, recently organized a photo contest and exhibition on the topic of natural disasters. I thought I’d share some of the finalist entries, which are remarkable in their composition and relevance. It’s important to note that these pictures are not related to the disasters that have hit several East Asian and Pacific countries in recent weeks. Nevertheless, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to click through the pictures below, which focus on the human toll of natural disasters in Vietnam. Check back in a couple days for more photos from the same contest.