Two billion people hit by natural disasters in the past decade: Red Cross
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Two billion people hit by natural disasters in the past decade: Red Cross

The damage caused by natural disasters including cyclones, floods and bushfires has been higher in Australia than most other countries during the past decade, a new report has found.

The World Disasters Report 2018, prepared by the Red Cross,  ranks Australia 10th in the world for the cost of damage caused by disasters between 2008 and 2017.

The damage bill was highest in the US ($US525 billion) followed by China ($US319 billion) and Japan ($US247 billion). India and New Zealand also ranked among the top 10. The report put Australia's disaster damage bill over the decade at $US27 billion ($38 billion).

The damage done by disasters in Australia has been higher than most nations during the past decade.

The damage done by disasters in Australia has been higher than most nations during the past decade.Credit:AAP/Dave Hunt

Australia's region, the Asia Pacific, was the world's most disaster-prone last year.  It was hit by two out of every five of the 335 disasters recorded worldwide in 2017 and suffered 58 per cent of disaster-related deaths.

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Last year 127 disasters were triggered by storms, well above the long-term annual average of 98. It was a similar story for large destructive bushfires with 15 recorded world-wide compared with the annual average of nine.

The World Disasters Report 2018, released on Wednesday,  found more than two billion people have been affected by natural disasters over the past decade, mostly by weather-related hazards including floods, storms and bushfires.

There was 3751 major disasters worldwide in that period causing damage worth more than $2 trillion.

Disasters triggered by weather accounted for three-quarters of the world's disaster-related damage costs in the decade.

But earthquakes were the biggest killer. Despite being relatively infrequent they caused over 350,000 deaths during the decade, or 49 per cent of all fatalities caused by natural disasters.

While the annual economic cost of disasters is growing, they are causing fewer deaths overall due to improvements in emergency preparedness.

Peter Walton, international director of Australian Red Cross, said disasters are impacting us more than ever.

“Here in Australia we are experiencing one of the worst ever droughts and we see bushfires all too often,” he said.

“We’re seeing increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters in this region, such as the massive cyclones that have been hitting Australia, the Pacific and countries like the Philippines in Asia.”

The Red Cross report warned that essential aid is increasingly not reaching all those hit by disasters and that millions of people are being "left behind" in humanitarian crises.

The report warns of a “massive and growing gap” between the funds required, and the funds available, for humanitarian work.

Last year only 56 per cent of United Nations appeals to fund humanitarian emergency responses across the world were met.

“This gap is widening and has been for many years,” the report said.

About 134 million people will require humanitarian assistance worldwide in 2018, the UN estimates.

The report also said more investment is needed to prepare for disasters and build resilience in communities, especially those in disaster-prone areas.

“Globally, the cost of damage caused by disasters in 2017 was a staggering $472 billion,” Mr Walton said.

“Yet research shows that every dollar spent on reducing risks saves up to $8 when disasters strike.”

The report said slow-onset disasters such as droughts, famines and some health-related crises seldom get the same response from donors as sudden disasters such as storms and earthquakes.

“Appeals-based calls for funding for slow-onset disasters are notoriously unreliable,” it said.