Map of Natural Disasters Around the World Since 1900


Natural disasters are unavoidable and prevalent in human history, but it doesn't diminish our collective shock when they strike. Here are a few examples of natural disasters that hit the news last year:
  • A 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 2,000 people. Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed as a result of the storm.
  • Rai, a super typhoon that hit the Philippines, killed 375 people. Winds gusted up to 120 miles per hour throughout the storm (193 kph)
  • More than 300 people have been killed by landslides in China's Henan province.
  • More than 200 people have died as a result of historic flooding in Germany and Belgium.
  • Hurricane Ida battered the Gulf Coast, killing 91 people across nine U.S. states
These are just a few of the countless incidents that rounded out a year filled with disasters.

Our World in Data produced the interactive dashboard above using data from EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database. The database attempts to rationalize disaster preparedness decision-making and offer an objective foundation for vulnerability assessment.

Total Natural Disaster Deaths in the Last Decade (2010-2019)

Natural disasters have claimed the lives of around 60,000 individuals each year over the last decade. This equates to 0.1 percent of all deaths on the planet.

The graph below shows the overall number of deaths caused by natural disasters during the last ten years.

Type of Natural Disaster Total Deaths (2010-2019)
Earthquakes 267,480
Extreme Temperatures 74,244
Floods 50,673
Storms 27,632
Droughts 20,120
Landslides 10,109
Volcanic Activity 1,363
Wildfires 881
Mass Movement 100
TOTAL 452,602

Droughts and floods have historically been the most deadly natural calamities.

However, compared to earthquakes, which are by far the most lethal natural disaster in modern times, deaths from these events are presently comparatively low. Earthquakes killed 267,480 people globally in the last decade, followed by excessive heat, which killed 74,244.

The Number of People Killed in Natural Disasters Is Declining

Is the planet Earth truly more dangerous than it has ever been? Let's have a look at the statistics:

The Decline of Deaths from Natural Disasters

Natural disaster deaths have decreased dramatically over the previous 100 years, as shown in the graph above.

Natural disasters claimed the lives of about 500,000 people every year in the 1920s. Several outlier occurrences contributed to this: for example, a 1923 earthquake in Tokyo killed over 146,000 people, while drought and hunger in China killed 3 million people between 1928 and 1930.

Although the number of deaths fell below the 500,000 per year average in the 1930s, a number of incidents tipped the scales. Floods killed about 3.7 million people in China in 1931, and an earthquake in Pakistan killed up to 60,000 people in 1935, and so on.

Fortunately, the decadal average has declined to less than 100,000 deaths each year throughout time. When the pace of population growth is taken into account, the fall during the last century is much more striking.

Natural catastrophe awareness has risen substantially in tandem with global access to real-time information, and these occurrences are thankfully less fatal than they formerly were.

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