Asia-Pacific suffers worst natural disasters in 2013
The Asia-Pacific region suffered the worst natural disasters in 2013, with the Philippines experiencing the biggest number, said a report issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
That makes the Philippines, which suffered from the deadliest typhoon in recent history, the third most disaster-prone country in the world.
Last year, the Philippines suffered 16 natural disasters that resulted to the death of 8,382 people, the report said.
The onslaught of super-typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) in Nov. 8, 2013, considered the deadliest event that year, affected the largest number of people and caused the greatest economic loss.
Latest data revealed that the storm killed over 6,000 people, affected around 14 million and displaced roughly four million people. Some experts estimate the typhoon was among the strongest ever to make landfall.
Less than a month before the devastation of Yolanda, Bohol and nearby provinces in Central Visayas were hit by an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale. In Oct. 15, the earthquake instantly killed at least 223 people, injured 159 and affected over 350,000 mostly in Bohol, Cebu and Siquijor provinces. At the peak of the crisis, the report said nearly 600 evacuation centers existed in the affected areas.
Three months after the earthquake, 1,910 people were still displaced in official evacuation centers while significant needs in shelter, early recovery and health services remain, the report said.
The Asia Pacific region was hit by 137 natural disasters compared with 93 separate events in 2012. Meanwhile, the number of people killed by disasters was almost six times higher in 2013 than in 2012.
OCHA said the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters recorded 18,375 people killed and 82 million affected.
However, the report said the number of people affected by natural disasters in 2013 was only slightly higher than the number in 2012. The Southeast Asia floods from June to October 2013 affected more than 3.9 million people in four countries (Cambodia,Viet Nam, Lao PDR and Thailand). China and India were also heavily affected by floods.
Other notable events during the year in the region included Super-Typhoon Labuyo/Utor (China and the Philippines), Tropical Storm Maring/Trami (China and the Philippines), Typhoon Santi/Nari (the Philippines and Viet Nam) and Typhoon Mahasen (Bangladesh and Sri Lanka).
The OCHA report said the most frequently occurring hazards in the region were floods, which accounted for 40 percent of the region’s disasters, while 35 percent were storms. Together, these two types of disasters were responsible for almost 90 percent of people affected or killed.
On the other hand, of the 29 disasters that prompted the deployment of international humanitarian tools and services such as the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), and OCHA Situation Reports, 10 were tropical cyclones and eight were floods.
Flooding and storms were also the most common and destructive disasters in the Asia Pacific region between 2000 and 2013. That’s not counting the years when large seismic events, such as the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Wenchuan earthquake and the Japan tsunami, caused large numbers of deaths.
The report said the overall economic losses from natural disasters in Asia-Pacific during 2013 were nearly double than those registered in 2012.
The three costliest events of the year in Asia-Pacific, which each caused more than $10 billion in losses, occurred in China (a 6.6 magnitude earthquake in Sichuan Province and severe drought across central and eastern China) and the Philippines (Typhoon Haiyan).
Asia and the Pacific received $558 million in humanitarian aid in 2013, the report said. This is more than twice as much as was received in 2012 ($258 million).
However, the report noted that taking into account 2013’s large-scale emergencies, it is still significantly less than the $1.3 billion received in 2011 following the Japan earthquake and tsunami. In 2013, Myanmar ($209 million), the Philippines ($135 million) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ($63 million) were the top aid recipients in terms of contributions paid.
Meanwhile, Australia ($130 million), the European Union ($66 million) and Canada ($51 million) are the largest donor countries to Asia and the Pacific.
The report said countries in the region significantly increased their humanitarian funding contributions in 2013, pledging more than $1.7 billion in comparison to previous years ($1 billion in 2012 and $847 million in 2011). Japan ($945 million) and Australia ($263 million) were the top contributors for the fourth consecutive year, followed by the Republic of Korea ($26 million).
Syria ($287 million), Afghanistan ($110 million) and South Sudan ($94 million) are the top recipients of humanitarian aid from donors in the Asia-Pacific region.