U.N. Disaster Report Shows Fewer Deaths

The Associated Press
Monday, January 29, 2007; 9:55 PM

GENEVA -- Floods and storms were the most frequent natural disasters in 2006, while extreme temperatures pushed the death toll in Europe up 5 percent higher than the average for the past five years, the United Nations said Monday.

There were 21,796 disaster-related deaths around the world last year, according to the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction _ a big drop from the 92,000 who died in 2005, most in the South Asian earthquake.

"The 2006 figures confirm the trends that we have been observing since 2000," said Debarati Guha-Sapir of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, which compiled the figures. The number of people killed by disasters has been falling for five years, with the exception of 2004 caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami and 2005 by the Pakistan earthquake, she added.

Floods accounted for most of the 26 disasters in the United States. Worldwide, there were 226 floods last year _ a sharp increase compared with the average of 162 floods over the previous five years.

The overall number of people affected by natural disasters in the world was 140 million, a slight decline compared with 157 million in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

Asia, which continues to be the continent hardest hit by natural disasters, saw a 10 percent decrease in disaster deaths in 2006, compared with the five-year average, according to ISDR.

Most of last year's disaster deaths occurred in Indonesia where an earthquake in May killed 5,778 people. Typhoon Durian left 1,399 people dead in the Philippines in December, and a landslide earlier in the year killed 1,112 people on the archipelago.

Heatwaves in the Netherlands and Belgium led to unusually high numbers of disaster-related deaths in Europe _ 1,000 and 940 respectively _ according to the U.N. agency. A cold snap in Ukraine early last year left 801 people dead.

© 2007 The Associated Press