TABLE 6.1 Fatalities (rounded to the nearest hundred) from Selected Natural Hazards, 1960–1987, and the Largest Single Disaster for Each Hazard

Hazard Type


Largest Single Event and Year


Coastal inundation


Eastern Pakistan (Bangladesh), 1970




Tangshan, China, 1976


River floods


Vietnam, 1964


Landslides, mudflows


Peru, 1970


Volcanic eruptions


Columbia, 1985




Eastern Pakistan (Bangladesh), 1969


NOTE: More recent seismic events include the 2004 Sumatran tsunami (more than 285,000 fatalities) and the 2005 northeastern Pakistan earthquake (83,000 fatalities).

SOURCES: Bryant (1991), Munich Re Group (2000).

medical care facilities and the local public health infrastructure and disrupt and destroy transportation systems, communications facilities, and social services. Food and water supplies may also be destroyed, and even where they are not, disruption of the transportation system may make it difficult to ship adequate food supplies to affected regions, resulting in poor nutritional status and intensifying disease outbreaks. This impedes disaster recovery, and medical treatment during the acute phase of a disaster can be extremely difficult. In many cases, morbidity and mortality from the long-term health consequences may exceed the deaths resulting directly from the disaster (UNDP, 2004).

Although there has been a long tradition of addressing the human responses to natural disasters and hazards at governmental, institutional, and behavioral levels (e.g., Burton et al., 1978; Hewitt, 1997; Platt, 1999; Smith, 2001), far less attention has been paid to the public health consequences of disasters, particularly within what is conventionally considered the “natural hazards” literature in the social and behavioral sciences (Mileti, 1999). Recently, increased attention has been devoted to health issues associated with natural disasters—these include direct mortality from trauma, indirect mortality and morbidity from infectious diseases, and mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (Benin, 1985; Noji, 1997, 2005; Mileti, 1999).

The public health impacts of natural disasters have resulted in the development of the field of “disaster epidemiology” (e.g., Wasley, 1995).

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