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World Disasters Report: 2010 death toll highest in decade

Major disasters killed more than 300,000 people in 2010, the highest yearly death toll of the decade.

Thursday September 22, 2011

World Disaster Report 2011

Major disasters killed more than 300,000 people in 2010, the highest yearly death toll of the decade.

Releasing the 2011 World Disasters Report in Australia, Red Cross said a total of 640 disasters in 130 countries in 2010:

  • killed 304,476 people, more than double the average yearly toll for the decade
  • affected 304 million people, the second highest figure for the decade
  • caused an estimated $US123 billion damage.

Almost half of the disasters (269 or 42%) were in the Asia Pacific region. The most frequent natural disasters, globally, were floods (47%), windstorms (22%) and extreme temperature events (8%). Technological disasters such as large transport accidents and industrial accidents accounted for 234 or 37% of the 640 disasters.

The deadliest disasters were the Haiti earthquake (more than 220,000 deaths) and an extraordinary heatwave in Russia (more than 55,000 deaths).

China had the most natural disasters in 2010, a total of 22, followed by India (16) and the Philippines (14). Australia was ranked 6th with eight natural disasters in 2010, five floods, a tropical cyclone and two major storms, affecting a total of 211,042 people. The worst of these was the Queensland floods, which started in November and were responsible for the deaths of at least seven people by December 31. There were also major floods in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia in late 2010.

"The end of the first decade of the new millennium was a tragic and sad reminder of the lethal force of disasters," said Red Cross Acting CEO Michael Raper.

"Disasters killed a record number of people, affected more than 300 million people and shook the world's economies. 2011 is already shaping as even worse. Being prepared is the key to reducing these numbers and staying alive."

The Red Cross World Disaster Report says global hunger and malnutrition are a major international disaster. The report says:

  • 925 million people are undernourished, more than in the early 1970s
  • 178 million children under five are suffering from stunted growth as a result of undernutrition
  • 15% of the world's population go hungry each day
  • $68 billion was spent on food stamps for 40 million hungry Americans in 2010.

The worst drought in 60 years is threatening the lives and health of an estimated 12 million people in East Africa. The Red Cross East Africa Drought Appeal 2011 has to date raised $1.3 million. Donations to the appeal can be made at

Australia is not immune from the global hunger and malnutrition disaster. Analysis of available data shows that:

  • there are significant levels of food insecurity in Australia
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, families on low incomes, people who are homeless, asylum seekers and refugees, and socially isolated older people generally experience higher levels of food insecurity
  • the prevalence of food insecurity may range up to 25% in disadvantaged urban areas and up to 75% among newly-arrived refugees
  • cost and availability of healthy food varies significantly across Australia. A 2010 Healthy Food Access Basket survey in the Northern Territory revealed that the cost of the food basket in remote areas was 43% more expensive than in Darwin supermarkets.
  • Aboriginal mothers are twice as likely as other Australian mothers to give birth to low-weight babies, potentially resulting in lifelong problems. The rate of low birth weight babies in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is more than twice that of Indigenous communities in New Zealand, the USA and Canada.

"Red Cross staff and volunteers in Australia and around the world are working to alleviate the suffering of those affected by disasters and going hungry each day," said Mr Raper.

"These figures are shocking, but they are not new. Is it acceptable? No. As a global community we must do more to turn this around."

Media inquiries: Michael Gillies Smith, emergency services media adviser, 0448 571 484.