PARIS: Bangladesh, Indonesia and Iran are the countries that are the most vulnerable to natural disasters, according to a study by the Natural Disasters Risk Index.
Asia’s twin giants, China and India, join them in the 15 countries that, out of 229, are rated as “extreme” risk. NDRI is compiled by a British risk advisory firm, Maplecroft, on the basis of disasters that occurred from 1980 to 2010. It draws on a basket of indicators, including the number and frequency of these events, the total deaths that were caused and the death toll as a proportion of the country’s population. Disasters include earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, storms, flooding, drought, landslides, heat waves and epidemics.
“Poverty is an important factor in countries where both the frequency and impacts of natural disasters are severe,” said Maplecroft’s environmental analyst, Anna Moss. “Poor infrastructure, plus dense overcrowding in highrisk areas like flood plains, river banks, steep slopes and reclaimed land, continually result in high casualty figures,” she added According to the NDRI’s figures, Bangladesh has suffered more than 191,000 fatalities as a result of natural disasters in the past 30 years, and Indonesia a nearly equal number, the vast majority of which were inflicted by the December 2004 tsunami.
In Iran, the big vulnerability factor is earthquakes, which claimed 74,000 lives over this period. India, ranked 11th, lost 141,000 lives including 50,000 to earthquakes, 40,000 to floods, 15,000 to epidemics and 23,000 to storms – while the tally in China, rated 12th, was 148,000 lives, of which 87,000 were lost in the 2008 Sichuan quake. Three G8 countries are considered “high risk,” the next category down from “extreme.” They are France (17th in the overall rankings) and Italy (18th), which were hit by killer heat waves in 2003 and 2006, and the United States (37th), whacked by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The countries least at risk are Andorra, Bahrain, Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Qatar, San Marino and the United Arab Emirates. “Our research highlights the need for even the wealthiest countries to focus on disaster risk reduction,” she said.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 27th, 2010.