Tag Archives: catastrophes

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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2010: China’s Year In Catastrophes

China suffered the third and fourth most fatal natural disasters of 2010 after the Haiti earthquake and the heatwave in Russia and eastern Europe. The Qinghai earthquake in April took 2,968 lives. Widespread flooding and mudslides across the country between late May and August killed 2,490 people. A further 1,765 people died after a mudslide in August destroyed 67 buildings in Zhouqu in Gansu, itself the sixth most fatal disaster in the world last year.

The Zhouqu mudslide alone caused 5 billion yuan ($765 million) worth of damage, according to insurance company Swiss Re. In its annual review of the world’s natural catastrophes and man-made disasters, it says that the widespread flooding and mudslides of the summer caused 345 billion yuan worth of damage, affected 230 million people across 28 provinces and left 15 million homeless. Sixteen million hectares of farmland were destroyed.

Insurance covered only 5 billion yuan ($761 million) of the losses, Swiss Re says, leaving individuals, the government and NGOs to pick up the tab for the rest. Similarly, the earthquake in Qinghai resulted in insured claims of less than $1 million.

The table below chronicles, event by event, a grim year at the hands of both nature and man. Inevitably the list of mining accidents is long.

Natural Catastrophes and Man-Made Disasters, 2010
Date Place Event Damage
Mar 10 Shannxi Landslide caused by heavy snow; 25 houses destroyed 27 dead, 152 homeless
May 29-Aug 31 Fujian, Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan, Yunnan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Sichuan, Guizhou, Anhui, Shaanxi, Gansu Floods and landslides caused by heavy monsoonal rain; >2m houses destroyed, >5m damaged, >16m hectares of farmland destroyed; up to 28 provinces affected At least 1,724 dead, at least 766 missing, 15.2m homeless; 345bn yuan total damage, 5bn yuan insured loss
Aug 8-Sep 8 Gansu, Zhouqu Mudslide caused by heavy rain; 67 buildings, 200 hectares of cropland, water pipes, electricity lines destroyed 1,481 dead, 284 missing, 47,000 homeless; 5bn yuan total damage, 18m yuan insured loss
Sep 30-Oct 6 Hainan Floods caused by heavy rains; 182 towns submerged 1 dead, 3 missing; 1.1bn yuan total damage
May 5-24 Chongqing, Hunan, Guangdong, Jiangzi, Guizhou, Anhui, Hubei Storm winds up to 110 kph, heavy rain, floods 115 dead, 21 missing, 160 injured; 5.9bn total damage, 130m yuan insured losss
Jul 13-17 Hainan Island, Southern China, Philippines, Vietnam Typhoon Conson/No 1 with winds up to 120 kph, heavy rains; 3,691 houses, 1,3000 hectares of riceland destroyed *114 dead, 52 missing, 31 injured; $145m total damage
Jul 22 Southern China, Hong Kong, Vietnam Typhoon Chanthu/No 3 with winds up to 126 kph, heavy rains, floods, 2,915 houses destroyed in China *14 dead, 5 injured, 2.4bn total damage
Sep 9 Shishi City, Fujian, Zheijiang Typhoon Meranti with winds up to 100 kph; heavy rains, damage to cropland 3 dead, 186,000 homeless, 800m yuan total damage
Sep 19-21 Fujian, Guangdong, Taiwan Typhoon Fanapi/No 11 with winds up to 169 kph, heavy rain, floods, landslides; 66.4m hectares of crops flooded, 16,000 houses collapsed; landslide caused damage to a tin mine causing water pollution 135 dead, 61 missing, 128,000 homeless; $800 million total damage, $69m insured loss
Oct 17-23 Fujian, Taiwan, Philippines Super Typhoon Megi with winds up to 220 kph, floods, mudslides; 30,048 houses destroyed *46 dead, at least 4 missing, 42 injured; $701m total damage, $100m insured losses
Apr 14 Tibet, Qinghai, Yushu, Jiegu Magnitude 6.9 earthquake, aftershocks 2,698 dead, 270 missing, 12,000 injured, 100,000 homeless; 670m yuan total damage, 4m yuan insured losses
Drought, Bush Fires, Heat Waves
Jan 1-Jun 1 Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, Chongqing, Guangxi Drought; millions of hectares of farmland destroyed 237 bn yuan total damage
May 12-Jun 12 Sichuan Grassland fires spread by strong dry winds 22 dead
Cold, Frost
Jan 1-19 Xinjiang Heavy snow, avalanches, cold temperatures of -45˚C 20 dead, 1,100 injured; 650m yuan total damage
Feb 28-Mar 1 Shangdong Heavy snow; 5,883 houses and 66,310 hecatares of farmland destroyed 1.6bn yuan total damage
Major Fires, Explosions
Apr 1 Hebei Gas pipeline leak at steel plant 21 dead
Feb 26 Guangdong Fire and explosion at fireworks factory 23 dead, 48 injured
Aug 16 Heilongjiang Explosion at illegal fireworks factory 20 dead, 4 missing, 153 injured
Nov 15 Shanghai Fire at 28-storey residential building 58 dead, 71 injured
Aviation Disasters
Oct 24 Yichun Lindu Airport Embraer 190LR crashes upon landing 42 dead
Maritime Disasters
Dec 16-19 South China Sea 22 fishing vessels capsize due to strong winds *5 dead, 51 missing
Mining Accidents
Jan 6 Hunan Fire at coal mine 30 dead
Mar 1-15 Inner Mongolia Flood at coal mine after heavy rain 32 dead
Mar 15 Henan Fire at coal mine 25 dead
Mar 28 Shanxi Flooding of coal mine 38 dead, 115 injured
Mar 31 Place Gas explosion at coal mine At least 43 dead
May 13 Guizhou Gas explosion at illegal coal mine 21 dead
Jun 21 Henan Explosion at coal mine 47 dead
Jul 17 Shaanxi Fire at coal mine 28 dead
Aug 6 Lingnan Fire at gold mine 23 dead
Oct 16 Henan Gas explosion at coal mine 37 dead
Dec 7 Henan Explosion at coal mine 26 dead
Collapse of Buildings/Bridges
Jul 24 Henan Collapsed bridge due to overcrowding 49 dead, 17 missing
* figures for struck region, not just China; Source: Natural Catastrophes And Man-Made Disasters in 2010, Swiss Re, March 2011

Update: 2010 China’s Year In Catastrophes, Part II

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Insuring Against Earthquakes, Floods And Typhoons

China is underinsured. At least when it comes to catastrophes. A new working paper from the World Bank proposes the government creates an insurance fund to cover the part of the population that most suffers from floods, typhoons and earthquakes.

The Bank reckons the direct property damage from these natural disasters to be typically $15 billion a year. Add in the costs of business disruption and disaster relief and the number jumps significantly. Add in further a devastating ‘quake such as last year’s one in Wenchuan and the cost tops $100 billion.

Yet only 5% of property in China is insured, mainly commercial and industrial premises. The Bank says only one in 100 private dwellings is insured. Given the magnitude of the potential losses, and the domestic insurance industry’s limited capacity to write business against them, the Bank proposes a national catastrophe insurance fund, the China Catasrophe Insurance Pool, to cover all private property and all small and medium sized enterprises against initially earthquakes in return for a mandatory premium.

The pool would act as a national aggregator of the risk but its management and insurance operations would be outsourced to the private sector. This is not an original idea in as much as similar insurance schemes exist in places such as New Zealand and California.


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