It’s all too easy for mega-disasters to be forgotten, but for those dealing with the loss of a loved one or a destroyed home, it’s not that easy to recover.

A new report released on Thursday by the United Nations agency for disaster risk reduction (UNISDR) analysed data from more than 7,000 disasters worldwide. The study determined that 90 percent of the 1.35 million people who had died in disasters between 1996 and 2015 lived in low- or middle-income countries.

In a statement, UN chief Ban Ki-moon described the report’s findings as “a damning indictment of inequality”. He also pointed out that “high-income countries suffer huge economic losses in disasters, but people in low-income countries pay with their lives”.

1. Haiti with 222,570 fatalities

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. It is also the country with the highest number of deaths caused by disasters in the past two decades. The majority of deaths occurred during the catastrophic earthquake of 2010.

For days and even months after the devastating 2010 earthquake hit Haiti, people were still sleeping on the street next to destroyed buildings. The UN reported that more than 800,000 Haitians lived in displaced persons’ camps a year later. [File photo, 2011]
Haiti was caught off guard when the earthquake struck. Authorities encountered major logistical problems and struggled to distribute food and water to earthquake victims. [File photo, 2010]

For reasons of poor governance and poverty, Haiti never recovered from the 2010 earthquake. It was not prepared for Hurricane Matthew that struck the country last week. At least 473 people died and hundreds of thousands are in urgent need of food and medical supplies.

2. Indonesia with 165,708 fatalities

It was 00:58 local time in Indonesia on December 26, 2004. A mega earthquake in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Sumatra, triggered a series of devastating tsunamis. It was the third largest earthquake ever to be recorded and caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1 centimetre.

The Boxing Day Tsunami, as it’s also called, affected 14 other countries. However, Indonesia’s death toll in the catastrophe was the highest – 130,736 and the reason that Indonesia is on this list.

The bottom photo was taken three days before the tsunami struck Indonesia in December 2004. Three years after the tsunami, around 130,000 houses were built, including airports, roads and schools. It was the biggest construction project in the developing world. [File photo, 2004]
Fisheries in the region were badly battered by the December 2004 tsunami. More than 6,500 fishermen we killed and 5,200 fishing boats were destroyed. [File photo, 2005]

3. Myanmar with 138,366 fatalities

Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in 2008 and resulted in 138,000 deaths. The remote coastal region was ill-prepared for such an event. It forced the country’s government to commit to a national disaster plan and to educate the population on the importance of preparing for worst-case scenarios.

Myanmar’s isolationist government blocked United Nations efforts to airlift urgently needed food aid to survivors of the Cyclone. [File photo, 2008]

4. China with 87,476 fatalities

China ranks in the world’s top five because of the regular occurrence of natural disasters in the country. In total, China experienced 554 disasters during the two decades, including floods, storms and earthquakes.

The most notable disaster was known as the Great Sichuan earthquake or Wenchuan earthquake caused the death of 69,195 people in May 2008. [File photo]

5. Pakistan with 73,338 fatalities

A horrendous earthquake in October 2005 caused the greatest number of deaths in Pakistan. More than 73,000 people were killed, 128,000 wounded and around 3.5 million were left homeless. Flooding, caused by heavy rains in the region, are also common and contribute to the total number of fatalities.

Pakistan is prone to heavy rains that cause flooding. Often it is Karachi’s slums and low-lying areas are the most affected are left homeless.

The report also showed that the earthquakes and the tsunamis they triggered have been the biggest killers over the past two decades. In total, they account for 748,621 deaths.

But climate-related disasters like floods, landslides, heat waves and severe storms have surged, with such events more than doubling in the past 20 years.

TRTWorld and agencies