Natural Disasters

How Natural Disasters Impact Urbanized Areas | by Wilson Moreno | Dec, 2021

Wilson Moreno
Image source: www.ft.com

Despite the number of people moving to rural areas to call it their home, cities are still the preferred locale for many people. There are good reasons for this preference. Urban areas provide many of the essential services, products, and infrastructure that make living conditions convenient and safe.

More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas — that is 4.2 billion inhabitants. This number continues to grow and is expected to more than double its current size by 2050.

The high density of people living in urban areas increases its vulnerability to natural disasters and potential disaster risk and losses. Many of these areas are susceptible to either cyclone, floods, droughts, earthquakes, landslides, or volcanic eruptions–or a combination of those. Some large cities can experience as many as four or five different types of natural disasters.

Recovery of rural areas from natural disasters is relatively straightforward. Meanwhile, urban areas have many complex systems so severe natural disasters can cause greater impacts.

More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas — that is 4.2 billion inhabitants. This number continues to grow and is expected to more than double its current size by 2050.

The Great Tohoku Tsunami of 2011 clearly demonstrates the high potential for casualties that an extreme natural disaster can bring when it hits urbanized areas. The 40-meter tsunami wave struck the coast of Iwate prefecture and three others extending along the Pacific coast.

Image source: www.britannica.com

Some of the cities hard-hit by the tsunami included the city of Sendai, Kamaishi, and Miyako in Iwate; Ishinomaki, Kensennuma, and Shiogama in Miyagi; and Kitaibaraki and Hitachinaka in Ibaraki. The inundation and flooding resulted in over 18,000 deaths, including several thousand victims who were never recovered.

The high density of people living in urban areas increases its vulnerability to natural disasters and potential disaster risk and losses.

The catastrophic event in Iwate also destroyed a total of more than 123,000 houses and caused damages to almost a million more. The estimated cost of the losses in Japan alone was estimated at $220 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in history.

Image source: www.temblor.net

The “Triple Disaster”–earthquake, tsunami, and meltdown–uprooted entire communities and caused large infrastructural losses that disrupted Japan’s extensive supply networks. The Japanese government resorted to large increases in oil imports to make up for the electricity supply gap since only two of the three reactors were able to immediately restart operation. Since March 2011 Japan experienced record trade deficits, in the order of $78 billion in 2012.

Such events clearly show the highly damaging impact of natural disasters on the economy and population of urban areas.

References:

Urban Development Overview: Development news, research, data | World Bank

Natural Disasters and their Impact on Cities — Urban Studies — Oxford Bibliographies

Majority of the world’s cities highly exposed to disasters, UN DESA warns on World Cities Day | UN DESA | United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

The 2011 Great Tohoku Tsunami (arcgis.com)

Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011 | Facts & Death Toll | Britannica

Earthquake, Tsunami, Meltdown — The Triple Disaster’s Impact on Japan, Impact on the World (brookings.edu)


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