2011 was the costliest year in history in terms of natural disaster damage, in large part due to major disasters which occurred in some developed countries. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan alone were estimated to have caused over $200 billion in damages.
This chapter looks in more detail at the disasters that shook developed countries in 2011, beginning with the Japanese earthquake/tsunami/nuclear accident – the most expensive disaster in history. While the earthquake occurred with a bit over a minute’s warning, the consequences of that disaster will be felt for years, perhaps decades, to come. Discussion then turns to the United States which experienced a string of costly and varied disasters in 2011. Unlike in Japan where energy and attention focused on a single megadisaster, in the United States, different kinds of disasters occurred in succession.
The flooding experienced by residents of Queensland in Australia in the early part of 2011 was on a physical scale greater than that of all other disasters occurring in 2011. And the earthquake that occurred very close to the center of Christchurch, New Zealand in February caused major damage to half of the city center’s buildings, leaving many of them beyond repair.
Although some of our analysis focuses on the economic costs of the disasters in developed countries, for too many people, economic losses paled in comparison with the loss of family members and homes and the disruption to their lives and livelihoods. For all of those affected by disasters – whether in rich or poor countries – it is hard to overstate the experience of personal loss.