WMO: Weather disasters up fivefold in 1970-2019

The UN weather agency says weather disasters increased fivefold in the past half-century, killing more than 2 million people and causing losses of over 3 trillion dollars.

The World Meteorological Organization on Wednesday released a report on the more than 11,000 weather disasters, such as floods and heat waves, that struck between 1970 and 2019, as well as the economic losses incurred. It notes over 90 percent of the deaths occurred in developing countries.

In Asia, more than 975,000 lives were lost through storms and floods, accounting for nearly half the casualties. One particularly deadly disaster was a cyclone that hit Myanmar in 2008, claiming over 130,000 lives.

Africa accounts for 35 percent of weather-associated deaths reported globally. Droughts led to the highest number of fatalities, accounting for 95 percent of all lives lost in the continent.

The report says economic losses, standing at 3.64 trillion dollars during the 50-year period, have jumped sevenfold.

Notable examples are Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in the southern United States in 2005, causing damages of nearly 164 billion dollars, and the 2017 Hurricane Harvey, which led to losses of almost 96 billion dollars.

The report says improved multi-hazard early warning systems have significantly reduced mortality, but much more remains to be done, as only half of the 193 members of the WMO have such systems.

Meeting reporters, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said investment is needed both in the observation systems and early warning services of the countries.

He stressed the need to assist developing countries, saying forecasting high-impact weather events such as flooding or storms can save lives and also prevent economic losses.