During and after sudden or slow-onset events, a large number of lives can be claimed while affecting thousands of others. Direct loss of life from disasters is often well-reported, but many disasters can also influence mortality for weeks, months or years in the future. These losses may go unnoticed or be misattributed, meaning that the real impact of a disaster or a slow-onset event, such as temperature rise, is often underestimated.
Loss of life
Living in the unliveable
In summer 2021, air temperatures in Canada broke records multiple days in a row as a powerful heatwave spread over the Pacific Northwest, registering over 600 heat-related deaths and setting an all-time high-temperature record for the country at 49.6°C (121.3°F).
On 14 August 2021, Haiti was hit by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake with an epicentre in the Canal du Sud (120 km west of the capital, Port-au-Prince). The earthquake killed over 2,200 people and injured more than 12,000.
On 1 September 2021, remnants of Hurricane Ida, the costliest disaster of 2021, brought historic rainfall to New York City, triggering the city’s first-ever flash flood alerts as water flooded streets, subway stations and apartments.
In summer 2021, drought and low humidity combined with record-breaking heat of up to 48.8°C (119.8°F) led to fire outbreaks across the Mediterranean countries, killing more than 100 people and burning more than 620,000 ha of land in July and August
Southern Madagascar’s worst drought in 40 years led to severe stress on vegetation, triggering a drastic decline in rice, maize and cassava production. By December 2021, more than 1.6 million people were estimated to have been suffering high levels of food insecurity.
On 15 January 2022, the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano eruption was felt across the Pacific Ocean and beyond, releasing energy equivalent to hundreds of Hiroshima nuclear explosions and creating supersonic air pressure waves that were observed from space.
The vaquita is a species of porpoise on the brink of extinction with less than 10 individuals estimated to be left in the wild. Although not commercially targeted, the vaquita is collateral damage in an ongoing conflict between fishers, government and international illegal trade.
On 4 August 2020, more than 200 people lost their lives and more than 6,000 were injured when a massive explosion of ammonium nitrate destroyed much of the port area of Beirut.
From October to November 2020, 9 storms in 7 weeks caused widespread flooding in central Viet Nam. As a result, a total of 7.7 million people were affected by the disruption to basic services and 291 people lost their lives.
Beginning in late 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread among the world population, infecting and killing millions of people, disrupting social life, travel, business and education across the globe.
On 20 May 2020, Super Cyclone Amphan hit the Sundarbans region bordering India and Bangladesh as a Category 5 storm, with wind speeds over 260 km/h, killing over 100 people and displacing over 4.9 million.
From 11 to 20 February 2021, a powerful cold wave swept across North America. In Texas, the freezing temperatures killed at least 210 people and caused the power grid to fail, leaving 3.5 million people without electricity and heat.