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| Earth on Mar 11, 2012

Economic losses from earthquakes and natural disasters peaked in 2011

2011 had highest economic losses from earthquakes on record and highest economic losses from natural disasters on record, due to March 2011 earthquake in Japan.

Considering Earth as a whole, the year 2011 had the highest economic losses due to earthquakes on record. It also had the highest economic losses due to natural disasters overall on record, mostly because of the 9.0-magnitude Tohuku earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan in March 2011. That’s according to reports released in early 2012 by several organizations.

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A wave approaches Miyako City, Japan after the magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck the area March 11, 2011. Photo credit: Kordian

The earthquake analysis – released in January 2012 – came from the Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction (CEDIM) in Germany. According to their report, earthquakes and their consequences, including tsunamis and landslides, caused damages of $365 billion U.S. dollars. More than half of that was from the March 2011 Tohuku earthquake and tsunami.

According to the CEDIM report, in 2011, over 20,000 people died and about a million people lost their homes globally, due to earthquakes and their effects. The two countries hit hardest by earthquakes were New Zealand, with a large earthquake near Christchurch in February, 2011 – and Japan. In 2011, the earthquakes and their aftereffects destroyed or damaged more than 1.7 million buildings globally. Of these, Japan had more than one million damaged buildings.

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The Insurance Information Institute (III), a U.S. industry organization, and the global reinsurance firm Munich Re in Germany both issued reports calling the Japan earthquake the most costly natural disaster of any kind (not just earthquakes) in history. These organizations said that the March 2011 Japan earthquake pushed the toll for losses from natural disasters up for the entire world – so that, globally, 2011 was the costliest year ever for natural disasters. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan is said to have accounted for more than half of the damage, overall.

Damage from February, 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. Photo credit: Royal New Zealand Navy

Going back to the CEDIM repot, in 2011 earthquakes alone and their consequences, such as tsunamis, landslides, and ground settlements, caused a damage of $365 billion U.S. dollars. According to the CEDIM analysis, 20,500 people died, about a million people lost their homes.

The earthquake near Christchurch, New Zealand, in February 2011 caused $20 billion in losses, said the CEDIM. Large economic losses also resulted from the earthquakes in the Turkish region of Van, in the region of India-Nepal-Tibet, in the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Xinjiang, and in the U.S. state of Virginia.

Worldwide, at least 133 earthquakes occurred in 2011, during which people died, were injured or lost their homes or which caused immense damage to property. Most often, i.e. 27 times, earthquakes took place in Japan. These were mostly aftershocks of the Tohoku earthquake. China was affected 20 times, Turkey 18 times. Including the aftershock near Christchurch, New Zealand was hit by 17 earthquakes, the CEDIM said.

In 2011, 20,500 people died as a result of earthquakes, tsunamis, or other consequences. Statistically speaking, this is below the average of the past years. More than 1 million people lost their homes. For comparison: The devastating earthquake on Haiti in 2010 caused about 137,000 casualties, between one and two million people lost their homes. In 2011, the earthquakes and their side effects destroyed or damaged more than 1.7 million buildings, of these, more than one million in Japan alone.

March 2011 earthquake aftermath in Japan. Via U.N. Radio

Bottom line: According an analysis by the Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (CEDIM) released in January 2012, the year 2011 had the highest global economic losses due to earthquakes on record, In 2011, earthquakes and their consequences, such as tsunamis, landslides, and ground settlements, caused a damage of 365 billion U.S. dollars. According to this analysis, 20,500 people died, about a million people lost their homes.

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