We know all too well that disaster can strike at any time, in any place in the world. Some disasters make headlines; others do not. Here at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, we keep an eye on status of disasters worldwide and compile a list of the ones we’re tracking weekly, along with relevant disaster-related media coverage.

To stay informed, we invite you to check back every Tuesday for updates on new, ongoing and past disasters. Listed below is information about what we are monitoring the week of Jan. 14.

New or Ongoing Disasters We’re Watching

US – Storms: It’s winter and there are a few more months of winter and snow left for much of the country. Recent storms have wreaked havoc on public transit and travel over a 1,700 mile stretch and the forecast for the week doesn’t look much better. The central part of the US and east coast can expect two back-to-back storms hitting this week.

Democratic Republic of the Congo – Ebola Outbreak: See CDP Ebola Outbreak profile for updated information. The outbreak (as of Jan. 14) has now reached 644 cases, 595 of which are confirmed and 49 suspected. There have been 392 fatalities (343 confirmed and 49 probable).

Previous Disasters

Munich RE has released their 2018 disaster data:

  • The overall economic impact was US $160 billion, of which US $80 billion was insured.
  • A comparison with the last 30 years shows that 2018 was above the inflation-adjusted overall loss average of US $140 billion. The figure for insured losses – US $80 billion – was significantly higher than the 30-year average of US $41 billion.
  • 2018 therefore ranks among the ten costliest disaster years in terms of overall losses and was the fourth-costliest year since 1980 for the insurance industry.
  • In particular, Hurricanes Michael and Florence in the Atlantic, and Typhoons Jebi, Mangkhut and Trami in Asia, all left their mark. Overall losses from tropical cyclones in 2018 came to roughly US $57 billion, of which US $29 billion was insured.
  • There was also an extremely high impact from wildfires in California that produced overall losses of US $24 billion and insured losses of US $18 billion.
  • Over the course of the year, 29 events each resulted in an overall loss of US $1 billion or more.
  • Roughly 50 percent of global macroeconomic losses from natural catastrophes in 2018 were insured, a significantly higher percentage than the long-term average of 28 percent. North America accounted for 68 percent of insured losses, Asia for 23 percent and Europe for 8 percent. The remaining losses of less than 1 percent were divided between South America, Africa, Australia and Oceania.
  • Regrettably, 10,400 people around the world lost their lives in natural disasters this year. This groups 2018 with the years 2016, 2014, 2000, and three other years in the 1980s, in which the victim toll was around 10,000. Geophysical events accounted for 34 percent of all fatalities. This is much lower than the 49 percent figure over the period 1980–2017. Storm events claimed 24 percent of the victims, roughly the same as the 26 percent average since 1980. However, the picture was very different for the number of lives lost in flood events; this year’s figure of 35 percent was substantially higher than the 14 percent average. The reason for this was large-scale flood events in Asia and Africa. Earthquakes with and without tsunamis in August, September and December in Indonesia claimed the lives of over 3,000 people. These proved to be the events with the highest number of fatalities in 2018, followed by floods in India, Japan and Nigeria. Worldwide, 273 people were killed in wildfires over the course of the year. This is the second-highest number in the time series since 1980 and is only surpassed by the extensive fires in Indonesia in 1997, which claimed the lives of 375 people. Heading the list in 2018 were fires in Greece with 100 fatalities and the US with 108.

California – Wildfires: Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), the California utility company blamed for starting Camp Fire will file for bankruptcy at the end of January following the mandatory waiting period. It was facing at least $7 billion in claims.

Thailand – Tropical Storm Pabuk: Pabuk made landfall in the province of Nakhon Si Thammarat on Jan. 4, 2018. Seven people were killed in Thailand including two rescue workers.

The Philippines – Tropical Storm/Depression Usman: 480,000 people were affected by Tropical Storm Usman which hit the Philippines on December 29. As of Jan. 10, only 117 of 536 shelters remain open, housing 57, 300 people. Agricultural impact continues to increase and is now at $15.5 million USD (PHP816 million).

Indonesia – Sulawesi earthquake – Nearly 135,000 people remain displaced across Central Sulawesi from the earthquake in Sept. 2018. The emergency transition to recovery phase has been extended to Feb. 23. It is estimated that $1.6 billion (IDR 22.8 trillion) will be needed for rehabilitation and reconstruction.

What We’re Reading

  • National Institute of Building Sciences Issues Interim Report on the Value of Mitigation: Press release and Full report
  • An Organization Engages Volunteers in a New Way – Nonprofit Quarterly
  • Sending too many rescue teams ‘makes disasters worse’ – The Telegraph
  • Yes, you need a natural disaster emergency plan even if you’re an apartment dweller – The Washington Post