The statistics of natural disasters: A 2013 review

The statistics of natural disasters: A 2013 review

According to the "Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2013" published this month by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), 2013 is a year with 330 registered natural disasters. This is less than the average annual disaster frequency observed from 2003 to 2012 which is 388, and represents a decrease in associated human impacts of disasters which were, in 2013, at their lowest level in last 16 years.

The death toll of natural disasters still killed a significant number of people totaling to 21 610 but this is largely below the annual average between 2003 - 2012 which is 106 654.

96.5 million people became victims worldwide, which was also below the 2003 - 2012 annual average of 216 million. On the side of the economy, economic damages from natural disasters shows, in 2013, a decrease to average levels, 2013 US $ 156.7billion, with estimates placing the costs at US$ 118.6 billion.

Trends in occurrence and victims (deaths and affected)

For  the last decade, China, the United States, Indonesia, the Philippines and India constitute together the top 5 countries that are most frequently hit by natural disasters.

In 2013, China experienced its highest number of natural disasters of the last decade. The country was affected by a variety of disaster types, including 17 floods and landslides, 15 storms, 7 earthquakes and one mass movement of geological origin, one drought and one period of extreme temperature.

For the top 10 countries in terms of disaster mortality in 2013, five countries are classified as low income or lower-middle income economies. These countries accounted for 88% of global reported disaster mortality in 2013.

Two disasters killed more than 1 000 people: the cyclone Haiyan the Philippines, in November that resulted to 7 354 deaths and the monsoonal floods in June in India with 6 054 deaths.

Top 10 natural disasters by number of deaths

The low number of reported natural disasters in 2013, when compared to the annual average occurrence from 2003 to 2012, was mostly due to a smaller number of hydrological and climatological disasters, 18% and 45% below their 2003 - 2012 annual average, respectively.

159 Hydrological disasters still had by far the largest share in natural disaster occurrence in 2013 with a percentage of 48.2%, followed by 106 meteorological disasters or 32.1%, 33 climatological disasters or 10% and 32 geophysical disasters that constitutes 9.7%.

21 610 people were killed by disasters last year. The said statistic is very far from the 2003 - 2012 annual average of 106 654 deaths. But this is mainly explained by the impact, on the decade’s average,of three years: 2004, 2008 and 2010, with more than 200 000 people reported killed and two years: 2003 and 2005 with around 100 000 deaths, most of them having been killed by earthquakes.

Top 10 countries by number of reported events in 2013

On a more detailed aspect, it appears that, in 2013, the number of people killed by floods totaled to 9 819 was the highest of the decade and the number of those killed by storms: 8 583 the second highest.

Deaths from floods had the largest share of natural disaster fatalities in 2013, representing 45.4% of global disaster mortality, while deaths from storms accounted for 39.7%.

Super Typhoon Haiyan over the Philippines on November 9, 2013 as imaged from Earth orbit by NASA Astronaut Karen Nyberg aboard the International Space Station.Category 5 killer storm Haiyan stretches across the entire photo from about 250 miles (400 kilometer) altitude. Credit: NASA/Karen Nyberg

Most disaster victims in 2013 were results of the cyclone Haiyan which affected 16.1 million people, cyclone Phailin in India with 13.2 million and cyclone Utor/Labuyo in China affecting 8 million. Victims from these three cyclones accounted for 38.7 per cent of all natural disaster victims of 2013.

Other disasters with severe human impact were reported in China, one drought with 5 million victims, one flood with 3.5 million and one earthquake with 2.2 million, in the Philippines, one earthquake with 3.2 million victims and one flood with 3.1 million, in Thailand, one flood with 3.5 million victims and in Zimbabwe, one drought with 2.2 million victims.

When the 2013 data is placed side by side with the figures from the annual average for the decade 2003 to 2012 of 215.5 million indicate that the number of victims of 96.5 million has decreased.

This decrease is explained by the lower human impact of climatological disasters whose number of victims is 8.2 million was 88% below its 2003 - 2012 annual average, and of meteorological disasters with a number of victims of 32.1 million, 70% below the decade’s average. Conversely, the number of victims from meteorological disasters of 49.2 million was, in 2013, 60% above its 2003-2012 average.

Year 2013 percentage of victims to disaster: 51% of victims were from storms, 33% from floods, 8% from droughts and 7% from earthquakes. Only three countries accounted of 72.4 per cent of victims: China with 28.5%, the Philippines with 26.6% and India with 17.3%.

Economic impact

The Flooding in the South and East Germany was the most costly natural disaster in 2013 with estimated economic damages of US$12.9 billion. Costs from cyclone Haiyan in the Philippines were estimated at US$ 10 billion. An earthquake in the Sichuan province in China, US$ 6.8 billion, the cyclone Fitow, also in China, US$ 6.7 billion, the Calgary flood in Canada, US$ 5.7 billion, tornadoes in May in the United States, US$ 5.5 billion, two floods in China, in Sichuan in July, US$ 4.6 billion and in the North-East provinces in August-September, US$ 5 billion and the hurricane Manuel in September in Mexico, US$ 4.2 billion also added significantly to the total disaster damages of 2013.

The estimated economic losses from natural disasters in 2013, US$ 118.6 billion was 25% below the annual average damages from 2003 to 2012 US$ 156.7 billion 2013 value.

With the exception of storms, the decreasing rates of climatological and geophysical disasters is of greater importance. Conversely, damages from floods of US$ 53.2 billion were, in 2013, 90% above their 2003-2012 annual average and were the second highest of the period. The flood in Germany was the third costliest since the flood in China in May-August 2010, US$ 19.2 billion 2013 value, and the flood in Thailand in 2011, US$ 41.4 billion, 2013 value.

The damages from meteorological disasters, US$ 52.4 billion were 21% above their annual 2003-2012 average, US$ 30.7 billion 2013 value. The cyclone Haiyan, in the Philippines, was the second costliest disaster in 2013, but far behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with US$ 149.1billion 2013 value or Hurricane Sandy in 2012 with US$ 50.7 billion 2013 value.

The costs from geophysical disasters of US$ 9.1 billion were 82% below their 2003-2012 annual average US$ 49.5 billion 2013 value. The earthquake in the Sichuan province in China was the third costliest disaster of 2013. It  ranks far from the exceptional costs from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 with US$ 217.5 billion, 2013 value, or damages from the May 2008 earthquake in China US$ 91.9 billion, 2013 value or from the Honshu-Niigata earthquake in Japan in 2004 ,US$ 34.5 billion, 2013 value.

The damages from climatological disasters of US$ 3.9 billion were 68 % below their decade’s average US$ 12.5 billion, 2013 value.

The costliest climatological disaster in 2013 was a drought in New Zealand with US$ 823 million. Such an amount is very far from the damages reported from the United States in the South-and Mid-West regions in 2012 with an amount of US$ 20.3 billion, 2013 value and in the South-West region in 2011, US $ 8.3 billion, 2013 value.

Top 10 natural disasters by economic damages

Geographical distribution of disasters

Based on the geographical distribution of disasters, Asia was the continent most often hit by natural disasters in 2013 with 40.7%, followed by the Americas, 22.2%, Europe, 18.3%, Africa, 15.7%, Oceania, 3.1%. This regional distribution of disaster occurrence resembles the profile observed from 2003 to 2012.

In 2013, the 156 disaster occurrence in Asia was similar to its 2003 - 2012 annual average 155. Inversely, numbers of disasters were below their decade’s annual average like in Africa, -38.6%, Oceania, -26.2%, the Americas, -19.8%) and Europe, -17.7%.

The continent of Asia accounted in 2013 for 90.1% of global disaster victims, followed by Africa with 5.1%. Compared to their 2003-2012 annual averages, the number of victims in 2013 increased in Asia and Europe, decreased in Africa and the Americas, and remained stable in Oceania.

On a more detailed note, hydrological disasters caused, proportionally, more victims in 2013 in Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania. Climatological disasters also created more victims in the Americas, Asia and Oceania; meteorological disasters in Asia and Europe and geophysical disasters in Asia.

In 2013, the regional distribution of disaster damages kept the main profile observed from 2003 to 2012, with Asia suffering the most damages with 49.3% of global disaster damages, followed by the Americas with 28.9%, Europe, 18.8%, Oceania, 2.75% and Africa, 0.2%.

Damages were below their annual 2003-2012 average in all continents except Europe. The highest drop occurred in Africa with -80.6% while the lowering was less sharp in the Americas, -48.1%, Oceania, -33.8% and in Asia, -18.0%. Inversely, in Europe costs of natural disasters were 69.8% above their decade’s annual average.

More precisely, costs of climatological disasters were above their 2003-2012 average in Oceania and near their average in Africa. Damages from hydrological disasters were above their decade’s average in the Americas, Asia and Europe and damages from meteorological disasters in Asia, Europe and Oceania.

Hydrological disasters contributed most to the increased damages in Europe, mainly due to the flood in South and East Germany. In Europe, the increase in damages can largely be attributed to the two earthquakes in Italy.

A glance at 2013 worst natural disasters

Super-Typhoon "Haiyan" – Philippines

Considered one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall, Typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Philippines on November 8, killing nearly 6 000 people and displacing more than 3.6 million.

The 3.9 meter (13 foot) storm surge and up to 478 km/h (235 mph) wind gusts largely wiped out coastal cities and destroyed much of the region’s infrastructure, such as roads, water and sanitation systems, and telecommunications lines.

“When you look at the mountains, they look bare and stripped of all vegetation,” Aaron Aspi, a World Vision communications officer, told ABC Radio on November 11 from northern Cebu.

Destruction in Ormoc City in Leyte province, Philippines (Credit: Robert Speta/WPW)

Typhoon "Phailin" – India

The strongest cyclone to hit India in 14 years, Typhoon "Phailin" affected the livelihoods of more than 13 million people in the country’s northeast.

Heavy rains and more than 241 km/h (150 mph) winds brought widespread devastation. But fewer than 50 people died in the mid-October storm. Governments and aid organizations credited improved disaster preparedness and the early evacuation of about 1 million of the most vulnerable residents along the coast.

TC Phailin on October 11, 2013. Image credit: NASA Terra MODIS / SEDAC

Floods - India

In June, a multi-day cloudburst hit the North Indian state of Uttarakhand, causing landslides and floods that resulted in more than 5 700 people missing. These people are presumed dead, according to the Uttarakhand government.

Other parts of India were affected but roughly 95% of the casualties occurred in Uttarakhand. This was the country’s worst natural disaster since a tsunami in 2004.

Army and paramilitary soldiers and volunteers rescued more than 100 000 people who were stranded in remote areas cut off by washed-out roads and landslides.

The Indian government originally estimated the death toll at 600 but repeatedly stressed that it would be significantly higher. According to Vijay Bahuguna, the chief minister of the state of Uttarakhand, the exact number of people who died may never be known.

METEOSAT-7 satellite image taken at 05:00 UTC on June 11, 2013 (Credit: NOAA/EUMETSAT)

Hurricanes Manuel and Ingrid - Mexico

Two separate storms overwhelmed western Mexico with rain in September, triggering widespread flooding and landslides. More than 200 000 people were affected in Guerrero state alone. In Acapulco, five feet of mud overtook vehicles and destroyed homes. Read more: Hurricane "Manuel", Hurricanes Manuel and Ingrid

Image was taken by GOES East at 17:15 UTC on September 13, 2013.(Credit: NOAA/GOES/NNVL)

Earthquake – Central Visayas, Philippines

Just three weeks before Typhoon Haiyan hit Central Visayas, a magnitude-7.2 earthquake rocked the same region, killing 222 people, displacing 350 000, and damaging or destroying about 73 000 buildings. Thousands of displaced or homeless quake survivors still had not found adequate shelter before Haiyan blew through.

Balochistan earthquake-Pakistan

Pakistan was struck by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that killed over 800 people and injured hundreds more on September 24th.

The earthquake hit hardest north-northeast of Awaran in the province of Balochistan, southwestern Pakistan. On September 28th, another earthquake with a 6.8 magnitude hit Pakistan, killing at least 45 people.

According to The National Disaster Management Authority, more than 30,000 families, an estimated 200,000 people, in the Awaran district, 400 miles southwest of the provincial capital of Quetta, have been homeless since the temblor.

Lushan/Sichuan earthquake- China

On April 20th, a 7.0 earthquake struck Lushan County, Ya’an, Sichuan, roughly in the same province that was heavily affected by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

The earthquake resulted in 196 dead, 24 missing and at least 11,826 injured with more than 968 seriously injured. Many old buildings in Lushan collapsed and several townships suffered major damage.

About 8 000 soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army, 1,400 provincial rescue workers, 120 support vehicles, 180 doctors from a Chinese emergency response team and search-and-rescue dogs were sent into the stricken area after the destruction, with volunteers mobilized from other parts of the country.

Damage in epicenter area (Credit: Xa’an)

Tornadoes – United States

A massive tornado, packing 321 km/h (200-mph) winds, raked a 19.3-kilometer (12-mile) path through the Oklahoma City area May 20, destroying homes and severely damaging two elementary schools. The twister killed 24 people, ABC News reported.


  • "Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2013: The Numbers and Trends" - Guha-Sapir D, Hoyois Ph. , Below. R.  - Brussels: CRED; 2014.” (PDF)

Featured image credit: Chicago in 2025 by Jamie (CC/Flickr



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