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Maplecroft's Natural Hazards Risk Atlas 2013
With less than 10,000 lives lost worldwide, 2012 was the least deadly for natural disasters in the last 10 years, due largely to the lack of major events outside high-income countries that possess strong socio-economic resilience – the ability to withstand shock and bounce back. However, new research from risk analysis company, Maplecroft reveals that resilience to major weather and seismic events is not improving in some of the world’s most important growth markets, leaving large sections of their populations, essential infrastructure and economies at ‘extreme risk.’
Over 2012, fatalities from natural hazards stood at 9% of the yearly average of 106,000 from the previous decade, while recorded natural disasters also saw a significant fall to 251 events, constituting a 65% drop on the 10 year average of 380.
According to Maplecroft’s annual Natural Hazards Risk Atlas, which evaluates the exposure and resilience of 197 countries to 12 natural hazards, there is a danger that the relatively quiet year of 2012 may lead to further complacency in relation to disaster risk preparedness in some of the most exposed and least resilient countries. This would have potentially devastating consequences when major natural hazards inevitably do occur. Consequently, supply chains and investors are exposed to greater risk than anticipated, as natural disasters can exacerbate other political and societal risks from regime stability to food security and societal unrest.
Maplecroft's Socio-economic Resillience Index 2013
© Maplecroft, 2013
The growth of mega-cities in countries, such as Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Viet Nam, which are prone to earthquakes and weather related events means population expansion into flood plains and low-lying coastal areas will leave more people exposed to these devastating hazards, in addition to the negative impacts for critical centres of economic output. Maplecroft states that without significant improvements in resilience, natural hazards are more likely to manifest as disasters in these countries.
Maplecroft states that the substantial drop in global fatalities not only relates to the reduced number of natural hazards, but also to the strength of resilience in the countries where 2012’s major events occurred. Superstorm Sandy, in spite of its strength and size, killed only 159 people in the United States, due largely to the country’s highly sophisticated response and well developed infrastructure and communications networks. In contrast, the deadliest event of 2012, Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines, resulted in over 1,000 deaths even though fewer people were exposed to the storm’s path, as it swept across the island of Mindanao.
This disparity is revealed in Maplecroft’s Socio-economic Resilience Index, a key element of the Natural Hazard Risk Atlas, which ranks the USA at 169th and ‘low risk’, despite it featuring in the 20 most at risk countries for exposure to hurricanes, tsunamis, extra-tropical cyclones, storm surges, flooding, volcanic risk and wildfires. The Philippine’s socio-economic resilience to natural disasters is meanwhile ranked 65th and ‘high risk.’ In spite of economic growth (over 5%) over the last four years, better disaster resilience has not materialised and the country’s ranking in the index has not improved.
The slow rate of progress in socio-economic resilience can also be seen in other emerging growth markets, especially in Asia, including: Bangladesh (46th), India (56th), Indonesia (69th), Viet Nam (72nd) and China (91st), all of which are rated ‘high risk.’ None saw any significant improvement in the index from 2012. These countries are not only exposed to multiple devastating hazards, but lack resilience to the impacts and show a poor capacity to bounce back, which could undermine economic growth; disrupt business operations and supply chains.
These countries also feature prominently in Maplecroft’s Natural Hazard Risk - Absolute Economic Exposure Index, which assesses the proportion of a country's non-agricultural economy exposed to natural hazard risks. In this index, China (3rd) and the Philippines (4th) are rated ‘extreme risk,’ while India (5th) and Indonesia (7th) feature in the ‘high risk’ category. This ranking reflects that these countries have the most globally significant concentrations of economic assets exposed to major natural hazards.
“With the increasing global economic importance of these nations and their interconnectivity to global markets, a major event in one these financial centres increases the risk of economic contagion,” stated Helen Hodge, Head of Maps and Indices at Maplecroft. “In particular, a limited resilience capacity to ‘bounce-back’ from disasters will amplify this risk and prolong economic down-time.”
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A lack of socio-economic resilience to the impacts of natural disasters is felt most acutely by the world’s poorest states, particularly in Africa, which hosts 19 of the 23 ‘extreme risk’ countries in the index. The ten countries with the least resilience to disasters include: Somalia, Afghanistan, DR Congo, Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, South Sudan, Yemen, Eritrea and Guinea-Bissau. Many of these economies are, however, mineral producers where investments will be highly exposed should a disaster occur.
At the other end of the scale, the countries best placed to combat the impacts of natural hazards include: Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and the UK, in spite of indications of evidence for the growing risk of hydro-meteorological events which seems to be affecting both the USA and Western Europe.
Aside from Superstorm Sandy, the U.S. suffered a severe drought over the summer of 2012, which destroyed or damaged portions of the major field crops in the Midwest, prompting price increases for many agricultural commodities. It was also the second wettest year on record in the UK, which suffered prolonged periods of flooding in many areas. However, like the U.S., the UK has relatively strong resilience and is refining its response mechanisms further through institutional reviews and reform.
Jason McGeown, Head of Communications
Tel: +44 (0)1225 420000
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