Smart To Prepare For Disasters : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Y2K or no Y2K, it can only be smart to prepare for disasters. They happen! More frequently now. Preparation will not be in vain. Bank on your own self-reliance.

World Is A Far More Disastrous Place To Be

Nick Nuttall on an insurance industry audit of global strife

1998: The worst year for the world
LARGE-SCALE natural disasters are three times as common as they were in the 1960s, experts said yesterday as they declared 1998 the most calamitous on record.

Damage from catastrophic storms and floods is also costing many billions of pounds more, according to Munich Re, one of the biggest reinsurance companies, which has been monitoring natural disasters for a quarter of a century.

A spokesman for the company, which advises the rest of the insurance industry, said yesterday: "Comparing the figures for the 1960s and the past ten years, we have established that the number of great natural catastrophes was three times larger. The cost to the world's economies, after adjusting for inflation, is nine times higher and for the insurance industry three times as much."

Some experts claim that the rising rate of natural catastrophes is making more parts of the globe uninsurable, especially in low-lying areas in the Pacific, Asia and the Caribbean. Figures for this year, released yesterday, show that more than 700 so-called "large-loss events", which killed an estimated 50,000 people, struck across the globe.

The most frequent natural catastrophes in 1998 were windstorms, of which 240 were significant, and floods, of which there were 170. They accounted for 85 per cent of the economic losses. In 1995, the previous most calamitous year, there were 100 fewer "large-loss events". Last year there were 538.

The most recent natural disaster was caused by Hurricane Mitch, which hit Central America and especially Honduras and Nicaragua killing an estimated 9,200 people and costing $5 billion (#3.1 billion) in uninsured and $150 million in insured losses.

Europe was also plagued with costly natural disasters, the blame being put on higher than average winter temperatures triggering extreme weather. The biggest uninsured losses in Europe in 1998 are believed to have been caused by the heatwaves and forest fires that hit Greece between June and August. These are estimated to have cost the country $675 million.

The biggest insured losses, costed at $530 million, were in The Netherlands and Belgium in September. Second, at $500 million, was the damage caused by the storms that swept Europe in January.

That loss was equalled by the floods in Britain in April which cost $500 million, triggering insurance claims of $250 million.

The big rise in natural disasters this year is being blamed on rising global temperatures aggravating changes to La Niqa, a climatic cycle in the Pacific that follows El Niqo and spawns heavy rains in Asia. Gerhard Berz, the head of the geoscience research centre at Munich Re, said that economic loss and human misery would rise further if global warming continued in line with scientists' forecasts.

Dr Berz, whose company has been montioring the level and cost of natural disasters since the late 1960s, said: "A further advance in man-made climate change will almost invariably bring us increasingly extreme natural events and consequently increasingly large catastrophe losses.

"The progress achieved at the fourth climate summit in Buenos Aires at the beginning of November is not enough to halt global warming and stabilise the world's climate in the long term." If the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, which cost $100 billion, is removed from the statistics, then 1998 also becomes the most expensive year on record for all kinds of natural disasters.

Most of this year's storms and floods hit poor, uninsured parts of the globe, so the loss to the insurance industry is forecast to be less, at about $15 billion. But that figure is up from $4.5 billion in 1997 and continues a rising trend.
There is a table which follows, showing $$ amounts of disasters. The list is not even complete! but instructive.

It will be interesting to see if Y2K, the man-made disaster, out-does all the 'natural' disasters.

xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxx

-- Leska (, December 30, 1998


U.N. Agency: 1999 Will Be A Hungry Year

12/30/98 -- 11:55 AM, AP

ROME (AP) - A U.N. agency warned Wednesday that in 1999 more people around the world will face food shortages because of this year's man-made and natural disasters.

``We have to enter 1999 with the understanding that we may face an increased threat of famine, malnutrition and endemic hunger,'' Catherine Bertini, executive director of the World Food Program, said in a statement.

Bertini pointed to the continuing effects of crises such as Hurricane Mitch, which ravaged Central America in October, and economic crises in Asia and Russia, which still show few signs of abating.

She also said flare-ups of civil warfare in Kosovo and Angola threaten food supplies.
The Rome-based World Food Program is responsible for distributing emergency food aid.
xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx x

-- Leska (, December 30, 1998.


There was a great segment on last night's PBSs NewsHour with Jim Lehrer [] that discussed the major natural disaster's of 1998 and that they were the most economically costly ever, not to mention the cost of human lives lost. PBS does not yet have a transcript of it. I e-mailed them asking that they offer it.

PBS NewsHour Search

PBS Online Searching Tips


-- Diane J. Squire (, December 30, 1998.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ