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close this bookDisasters in the Greater European Region from CRED Disaster Events Database, (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, 1993, 9 p.)
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View the documentCRED Bulletin: Disasters in the Greater European Region from CRED Disaster Events Database (EM-DAT)

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CRED Bulletin

CENTRE FOR RESEARCH ON THE EPIDEMIOLOGY OF DISASTERS
Catholic University of Louvain - School of Public Health
EPID 30.34
30, Clos Chapelle-aux-Champs
1200 Brussels - BELGIUM
Tel: (32) 764.33.27 - Fax: (32) (2) 764.33.28 - Telex: 23722 uclwol b

CRED Bulletin: Disasters in the Greater European Region from CRED Disaster Events Database (EM-DAT)

Dear Readers

In the past, the focus of our Bulletins has been disasters in developing countries. This issue focuses on disasters in the greater European region. Although risks vary between countries due to a variety of reasons, almost all the countries in Europe are exposed to catastrophic events. The management and preparedness for these disasters in Europe have become important issues of discussion and, in particular, potential areas of inter-country collaboration to ameliorate existing programmes and policy.

A total of 9.122 events were entered in the CRED database as of October 31, 1993 of which 1.103 were in the European Region between 1960 and 1993. Each figure is accompanied by a short commentary.

This bulletin takes a critical look at the disaster situation in Europe based on reported data from 1960 to 1993. It is primarily aimed to encourage reflection and debate. While in most developing countries, there is a central agency (e.g. Civil Defense, Planning Commissions), which co-ordinates emergency action, this is not so in European countries. Basic data are scattered between public agencies according to disaster type and a common source for data rarely exists. Efforts are on-going at CRED to complete me data on Europe to improve the quality of analysis.

The research undertaken at CRED on the European data indicate certain priority areas for further consideration:

(i) a regional approach to disaster preparedness planning is key to efficient management of disasters. The comments section of the database reveal that disasters (e.g. storms, river or air pollution accidents, floods) often occur across borders. Shared preparedness programmes and mutually supportive response plans are, clearly the rational approach, both in economic and operational terms.

(ii) a central database and information gathering system as support to planning, preparedness and policy development is a basic requirement for a coherent disaster programme.

(iii) a generic model of hazard mapping, in terms of potential human impact, may be a cost-effective exercise worth reflection.

(iv) it is generally recognised that low levels of community preparedness significantly increases the potential impact of disasters, when they happen. An examination (or case studies) of successful community preparedness programmes against disasters in Europe or other economically comparable countries could serve profitably to develop model programmes for high risk areas.

Debarati Guha-Sapir
Director


Figure 1 Distribution of Disasters by Category in the European Region 1960-1993

EUROPEAN COMMUNITY

OTHER COUNTRIES

Country

Nb. of Disasters

Country

Nb. of disasters

FRANCE

118

YUGOSLAVIA

55

ITALY

87

SWITZERLAND

40

UNITED KINGDOM

83

AUSTRIA

24

SPAIN

67

ALBANIA

16

GERMANY

63

CZECHOSLOVAKIA

16

BELGIUM

56

ROMANIA

16

GREECE

47

POLAND

14

PORTUGAL

26

SWEDEN

14

NETHERLAND

17

BULGARIA

13

DENMARK

16

GERMAN DEM.

12

IRELAND

9

NORWAY

12

LUXEMBOURG

6

ICELAND

7



HUNGARY

6



FINLAND

3

COUNTRIES NOT REPRESENTED ON THE MAP

Country

Nb. of disasters

Country

Nb. of disasters





SOVIET UNION (until 1990)

126

AZERBAIDJAN

1

TURKEY

88

LITHUANIA

1

RUSSIAN FED. (after 1990)

24

UZBEKISTAN ARMENIA

1

TAJIKISTAN

5

KAZAKHASTAN

1

AZORES

4

MONTENEGRO

1

GEORGIA

4

MALTA

1

KYRGISTAN

2


1


Figure 2: Total number of reported disasters in Europe by decades (1900 -1989)

Source: EMDAT database, WHO Collaborating Centre for Research on Epidemiology of disasters (CRED), Brussels

Before 1960, the collection efforts have, necessarily been from standard, historical sources or ad hoc mentions in the literature. An examination of the data shows only major catastrophic events are included such as the earthquake in Messina (Italy) in 1908 which killed 75,000 persons or the epidemic of typhus in Yugoslavia, Poland and ex-Soviet Union in 1914 which killed 3,000,000 people (source: USAID-OFDA). The accuracy or the coverage of the data, therefore in the pre-1960 period is unknown. Since 1960, with the establishment of OFDA, a global database on disasters including Europe was started. Although most of the data they recorded were those in which the US had a role to play, they also included some historical records. As a result both accuracy and coverage improved to a certain extent. Later, from 1970 on, the validity of the data improved due me coordinating activities of DHA-UNDRO and CRED's access to their archival files. More recently, the participation of the re-insurance companies in the EM-DAT project, further ameliorated accuracy, especially for the European countries for obvious reasons.

As displayed in Figure 3 A on page 5, the distribution of disasters by type reveal that more than half of the natural disasters are accounted for by high wind disasters (storms) and earthquakes. This may be partly due the better reporting of these events particularly earthquakes, since seismic monitoring agencies are present in almost all countries in Europe. Among the high wind disasters, nearly a quarter of all reported events in the European region occur in France and U.K. partly due to better reporting and partly due to their extended coastal exposures. Regarding earthquakes, me pattern of countries with the highest numbers of major events are as expected. The four highest ranking countries with earthquakes that have entailed deaths are ex-Soviet Union, Turkey, Greece, Italy and Yugoslavia. These five countries account for nearly 75% of the cases. Most of the data in this category has been reported by USAID - OFDA and DHA-UNDRO with the re-insurances contributing relatively few. The next largest category is floods, with Soviet Union, Spain, France and Italy accounting for most of the cases. While most of the floods have not had large human losses, one flood in Spain (1973) killed 500 persons and several in ex-Soviet Union entailed losses of over 1000 human lives.

The catch-all "other" category includes volcanoes (15), landslides (23), epidemics (9). Two tidal waves in France are registered as tsunamis in EM-DAT as the nearest appropriate category, although in the figure below they have been included with floods.

Although the scope of IDNDR does not strictly cover man-made disasters, a few words on that subject, are nevertheless revealing. As displayed in Figure 3B, nearly half of the disasters are accidents which include air, sea, road accidents as well as structural collapses (building and mine) and dam bursts (with ensuing floods). Fires (of which 23% are forest/grassland fire) occur with fairly high frequency especially in Germany (18%), France (15%) and UK (11%). Chemical accidents recorded in the database include industrial and technological accidents such as chemical, nuclear and mine explosions, pollution (acid rain, chemical pollution, atmosphere pollution, chlorofluor-carbon, oil pollution). Seventy eight such events are recorded. At this point in time, adequate criteria for entering events in these categories urgently need to be discussed and elaborated to standardise the type of cases included.


Figure 3: Distribution of disasters by type in European Region from 1960 to 1993 A. Natural disasters: 663


Figure 3: Distribution of disasters by type in European Region from 1960 to 1993 B. Manmade disasters: 480

Source: EMDAT database, WHO Collaborating Centre for Research on Epidemiology of disasters (CRED), Brussels

The three main disaster impact types are - losses in human lives, sizes of population affected and magnitudes of financial damage. Different types of disasters affect populations in different ways - some generating more material than human damage or vice versa. Similarly, different factors determine the importance of the different types of impact. Therefore, when analysing data for policy or programme development, these and other determinants should be kept in mind to assure coherence.

Losses in human life may be explained by developmental factors that make communities more vulnerable to disasters. Housing quality, land use patterns and urbanisation, availability and accessibility of health or life-saving facilities would all play a role in the expected mortality from an acute disaster. As expected, therefore, mortality distributions are often skewed towards the poorer countries in the region. For example, Turkey accounts for the largest losses of human life taking into account all disasters over the period 1960 - 1989. With regard to numbers of persons affected, population densities, for example, would determine to a large extent the magnitude of this effect in different countries. Countries like Belgium or the Netherlands run the risk of having large numbers of persons affected for any disasters due to the highly concentrated population distributions all over the country. The average number affected per disaster increased substantially between 1960-69 and the following decade. However, we can offer no adequate explanation for the drop in the latest decade until further in-depth analyses is carried out. Finally, with regard to financial impact, the richer areas of a country would register elevated financial damages due to high property values and material possessions. The increase in financial damages, particularly in EC countries is largely a reflection of increasing real estate values and expanding urbanisation (Figure 4C). This could also explain the difference between the EC and me non-EC countries, the large majority of which were Eastern bloc countries.


Figure 4: Human and physical impact of disasters by decade in European Community and other countries (1960 -1989) A. Size of the population affected (in thousands)


Figure 4: Human and physical impact of disasters by decade in European Community and other countries (1960 -1989) B. Losses of human life (in thousands)


Figure 4: Human and physical impact of disasters by decade in European Community and other countries (1960 -1989) C. Financial damage sustained (in billion of US$)

Source: EMDAT database, WHO Collaborating Centre for Research on Epidemiology of disasters (CRED), Brussels

Natural and man-made disasters are not an rare or unusual phenomenon in the European region. Although risks vary between countries due to a variety of reasons, almost all the countries are exposed to catastrophic events from time to time. The management and preparedness for these disasters are important issues of discussion and, in particular, potential areas where inter-country collaboration and scientific research to ameliorate existing programmes and policy.

This document takes a brief, critical look at the disaster situation in Europe based on data from CRED-EMDAT database. It is primarily aimed to encourage reflection and debate. There are three main parts to this document. The first (following the introduction) sketches out the methods of the EMDAT data collection process, the second part (sections 3-7) presents some data and discussion of salient points and finally, a concluding section (8) which includes a discussion of the data limitations.

In the perspective of future monitoring of disasters in Europe, the relative weights and biases of different sources was also examined. It was observed, for example, fires, accidents and high wind disasters have higher reporting by insurance companies, whereas for almost all others, USAID-OFDA and DHA-UNDRO provide much of the data. This may be due to the fact that these types of disasters tend to affect agricultural lands, which are typically be insured against natural disasters and for high values in European countries. In terms of coverage, the large institutional sources, namely, OFDA, DHA and re-insurances, generally speaking, accounted for about 60-65 percent of the data.

For questions regarding the database, please contact:

Ms Claudine Misson
Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters
Catholic University of Louvain - School of Public Health
EPID 30.34
30, Clos Chapelle-aux-Champs
1200 Brussels
Tel: (32) (2) 764.33.27 - Fax: (32) (2) 764.33.28 - Telex: 23722 uclwol b