Floods and storms were the most frequent natural global disasters in 2006, while extreme temperatures raised the death toll in Europe by five-percent compared to the average for the past five years, the United Nations said Monday.
There were 21,796 disaster-related deaths around the world last year, according to the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction — a big drop from the 92,000 who died in 2005, the year of the Asian tsunami.
“The 2006 figures confirm the trends that we have been observing since 2000,” said Debarati Guha-Sapir of Louvain University in Belgium, which compiled the figures. The number of people killed by disasters has been falling for five years, with the exception of the rise in 2005 caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Pakistan earthquake, she added.
Asia, which continues to be the continent most hit by natural disasters, saw a 10-percent decrease in disaster-deaths in 2006, compared with the five-year average, according to ISDR.
Most of last year’s disaster-deaths occurred in Indonesia where an earthquake in May killed 5,778 people. Typhoon Durian left 1,399 people dead in the Philippines in December, and a landslide earlier in the year killed 1,112 people on the archipelago.
But heatwaves in the Netherlands and Belgium led to unusually high numbers of disaster-related deaths in Europe — 1,000 and 940 respectively — according to the U.N. agency. A cold snap in Ukraine early last year left 801 people dead.
“European countries are by far not protected adequately against natural disasters,” Guha-Sapir said, warning that European countries were not giving sufficient attention to natural disasters and reporting of them was poor.
There were 226 floods last year — a sharp increase compared with the average of 162 floods over the previous five years. Floods accounted for most of the 26 disasters which occurred in the United States, just nine disasters less than China, the country that was most hit by natural disasters last year.
The overall number of people affected by natural disasters in the world was 140 million, a slight fall compared with 157 million in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the south of the United States.
The United Nations calculates “affected people” as those reported injured, homeless or in need of emergency assistance such as food or shelter as a result natural disasters.