2010: China’s Year In Catastrophes, Part II

In a review of natural disasters in 2010, the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, lists last year’s severe flooding across much of China and the drought earlier in the year as the two worst natural disasters of 2010 as measured by the number of people affected, 134 million and 60 million respectively. The flooding in Jilin takes seventh spot on its list with a further 6 million affected.

Measured by deaths the Qinghai earthquake was the third most deadly natural disaster of the year, killing 2,968, with landslides (1,765 deaths) and the floods (1,691 deaths) the fifth and sixth most fatal. Overall, no country was more affected by natural disasters in 2010 than China, with 22 recorded. India was next with 16.

We have chronicled may of these, most recently from a list of natural and man-made disasters furnished by the international insurance company, Swiss Re. The Brookings’ report draws its numbers and definitions from the World Health Organization-sponsored Emergency Events Database.

The Brookings report blames the severe nature of the weather in China in 2010 on the shift in June and July from El Nino to La Nina in the Pacific, which disrupts the large-scale ocean-atmospheric circulation patterns in the tropics, affecting weather around the globe, and in China’s case causing drought in the first half of the year followed by flooding in mid-year.

The economic cost of the floods and landslides is put at $18 billion, second only to the earthquake in Chile ($30 billion) and almost twice the cost of the flooding in Pakistan, which gained much greater international attention–and relief support–though it affected only 20 million people.

While China traditionally does not ask for international aid for its natural disasters, believing it has sufficient means and capacities to deal with such events, the contrast in the numbers to others of the year’s big disasters is staggering. The Haiti earthquake triggered $3.5 billion in international humanitarian funding; the Qinghai earthquake $7.3 million. Pakistan’s floods raised $2.2 billion in such aid; China’s floods, $150,000. Looked at another way, that worked out to $121.67 for each person affected by Pakistan’s flooding versus one tenth of one cent for each person in China so affected.

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