Natural disasters strike India routinely—earthquakes, tropical storms, cyclones and heat waves. But floods have, by far, been the most damaging of all the natural calamities in the last 10 years, data from the International Disaster Database shows.
This year, floods killed hundreds and left thousands homeless in India—all within a month. First, it was the deluge in Kashmir that killed at least 215 people and now, incessant rains in the northeastern states of Assam and Meghalaya have claimed about 85 lives already.
In the last decade, such floods have become the most deadly of natural disasters, with their death toll far outstripping the number of people killed due to earthquakes or extreme temperatures. For this analysis, we considered the worst ten natural disasters in each of the following categories, provided by the International Disaster Database. The database only registers those disasters in which at least 10 or more people are killed or at least 100 people are affected or it is declared a state emergency and international assistance is sought.
Floods in Kashmir caused massive devastation to infrastructure, damaging roads, bridges, schools and government buildings. The total cost of the damage is estimated to be around Rs 5000 crore ($ 977 million).
Omar Abdullah, the state’s chief minister, called it the worst floods in a century, as 300,000 of military personnel were deployed to carry out relief and rescue efforts. The rebuilding process, too, will require much assistance because of the sheer scale of the disaster.
Typically, floods in India have caused the most widespread damage, impacting people far greater than other natural disasters.
Floods have caused the most economic damage in India, substantially higher than any other natural disaster, amounting to $15 billion since 2005.
In India, such flood-related damage is partly due to faulty town planning, poor drainage and waste disposal systems. Moreover, the impact of climate change, particularly in mountainous regions, increases the threat of floods.
“The noticeable impacts of climate change include the rapid melting of many glaciers leading to immediate risks of glacial lake outburst floods with implications for downstream communities and infrastructures and the increase of irregular rainfall patterns with a higher frequency of floods and droughts,” according to the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development.
Globally, economic damage due to natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and drought has totaled about $25 trillion since 2000.