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Natural Disasters Doubled in Past 40 years, Reveals Atlas of Human Planet 2017 | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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This is Ecuador’s Tungurahua, or “Throat of Fire”, volcano as it erupts on August 24, 2014. (Reuters)

London- One out of three people in the world is exposed to earthquakes, a number which almost doubled in the past 40 years, according to the latest release of “Atlas of Human Planet 2017” prepared by the European Commission Joint Research Centre.

In a press release, Atlas pointed out that around one billion in 155 countries are exposed to floods and 414 million live near one of the 220 most dangerous volcanoes.

Atlas sheds light on the exposure of people and built-up areas to the six major natural hazards, and its evolution over the last 40 years. The atlas will be presented during the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction meeting in Cancun, Mexico.

The six hazards included: earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, tropical cyclone winds, tropical cyclone storm surge and floods. Global exposure to these hazards has doubled between 1975 and 2015, mostly due to urbanization, population growth and socioeconomic development. Some of the hazards pose a threat to a particularly large number of people in different regions of the world.

Off all hazards, the largest number of people are exposed to earthquakes. The number of people living in seismic areas increased by 93 percent in 40 years (from 1.4 billion in 1975 to 2.7 billion in 2015). In 2015, more than 400 million people lived near one of the 220 most dangerous volcanoes, exposed to the consequences of possible eruptions. Tsunamis affect coastal areas in many regions, with dangerous areas more concentrated in Asia. The highest amount of built-up surface exposed to tsunamis is in Japan by far, followed by China and the United States of America. The latter’s population is four times more exposed than that of China, the second most affected country.

More than 170 million people in Europe are potentially exposed to earthquakes, almost a quarter of the total population. In Italy, Romania, or Greece the share of exposed over total population reaches over 80 percent.

Flooding is the most common of the hazards studied. Germany has the highest number of people exposed to floods, about 8 million (10 percent of the national population), followed by France with 5.7 million (9 percent). Eleven million Europeans live within 100 km from an active volcano, which eruptions could affect not only housing and settlements, but also everyday activities, including transportation. The potentially exposed built-up surface increased by 86 percent from 1975.

Tropical cyclone winds pose a threat to 1.6 billion people in 90 countries. In 2015, 640 million people were exposed to extremely strong cyclone winds, with the largest built-up surface exposed to strong cyclone winds found in China and Japan.

The Atlas of the Human Planet 2017 builds on its first edition published in 2016, in which scientists combined earth observation with spatial modeling techniques covering 40 years of satellite observations data to create the Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL).