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WMO: Water-related hazards top list of 10 most destructive disasters

  • Published at 09:09 pm July 24th, 2021
This aerial view taken in Brommelen on July 16, 2021 shows the flooded area around the Meuse after a levee of the Juliana Canal broke AFP

Up to two months' worth of rainfall fell in two days, on July 14 and 15, affecting parts of Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria, says the German national meteorological service

Water-related hazards now top the list of natural disasters with the highest human losses in the past 50 years, according to the UN weather agency.

The Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes (1970-2019) report of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) finds that of the 10 disasters causing the most human fatalities in the past five decades, droughts top the list with some 650,000 deaths across the globe.

Storms caused upwards of 577,000 fatalities, floods led to more than 58,000 deaths, and extreme temperatures caused over 55,000 to die.

Excerpts from the report – which will be published in September –  were released as temperatures in parts of North America soar, and unprecedented flooding in north-central Europe continues.

Up to two months' worth of rainfall fell in two days, on July 14 and 15, affecting parts of Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Austria, the German national meteorological service said.

More than 120 people died in Germany alone, and hundreds remain missing.

Meanwhile, parts of the central Chinese province of Henan received more accumulated rainfall between July 17 and 21 than the typical average for a full calendar year.

The report estimates that, of the top 10 events examined between 1970 and 2019, storms accounted for approximately $521 billion in economic losses, while floods accounted for about $115 billion.

Also Read - German floods death toll hits 180, with 150 still missing

Excerpts from the report show that floods and storms resulted in the largest losses in Europe in the past 50 years, at $377.5 billion.

A 2002 flood in Germany caused $16.48 billion in losses, representing the single costliest event in Europe during the period studied.

Across the continent, 1,672 recorded disasters resulted in nearly 160,000 deaths and $476.5 billion in economic damages.

"Weather, climate and water-related hazards are increasing in frequency and intensity as a result of climate change," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

"The human and economic toll was highlighted with tragic effect by the torrential rainfall and devastating flooding and loss of life in central Europe and China in the past week," he added.

Also noting that the recent record-breaking heatwaves in North America are "clearly linked" to global warming, Taalas cited a recent rapid attribution analysis that climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions, made the heatwave at least 150 times more likely to happen.

Emphasizing that no country is immune from such changes, he said it is imperative to invest more in climate change adaptation, including by strengthening multi-hazard early warning systems.

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