Earthquakes were the deadliest natural disaster of the past decade, the BBC reports. According to new research, nearly 60 percent of all people killed by natural disasters between 2000 and 2009 died from quakes.

Storms accounted for 22 percent of lives lost and extreme temperatures caused 11 percent of deaths, according to data from the Center for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters. In all, 3,852 disasters killed more than 780,000 people, CRED found.

In the wake of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti, however, the threat of another quake looms large: Eight out of 10 of the world’s most populous cities sit on fault lines, including Tokyo, Mexico City and Mumbai.

“Earthquakes are the deadliest nature hazard of the past 10 years and remain a serious threat for millions of people worldwide,” said Magareta Wahlstrom, the United Nations’ special representative for disaster risk reduction.

“Seismic risk is a permanent risk and cannot be ignored,” she said. Referring to the Haitian quake, which killed up to 200,000 people after it struck on Jan. 12, Wahlstrom said risk reduction is a top priority.

In Haiti, about a third of the country’s 9 million people were directly impacted by the aftermath of the quake. “We will be working with our partners to ensure that it is central in the reconstruction,” she said.

Overall, the number of natural disasters is on the rise.

“The number of catastrophic events has more than doubled since the 1980-89 decade,” said Debarati Guha-Sapir, director of CRED.


In the past decade, Asia suffered the most, accounting for 85 percent of all deaths. The 2004 Asian tsunami, which killed more than 220,000 people, became the decade's deadliest disaster after a series of waves slammed coastal areas around the Indian Ocean.

In 2008, Cyclone Nargis swept across Burma and took 138,000 lives; In Europe in 2003, a heat wave was blamed for 72,000 deaths.

The study’s authors warn that increasing urbanization and deforestation can amplify the damage of natural disasters. But they said while disaster and death tolls may be increasing, improved preparation can save lives.

The number of catastrophic events has more than doubled since the 1980-89 decade,” said Guha-Sapir. “In contrast, the number of affected people has increased at a slower rate. This may be due to better community preparedness and prevention.”