Earthquakes and tsunamis accounted for most of the 10,373 lives lost in disasters last year, while extreme weather events accounted for most of 61.7 million people affected by natural hazards, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said on Thursday.
There were 281 extreme weather events recorded by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in its EM-DAT (International Disaster Database), the UNISDR said at a UN press conference.
"No part of the globe was spared from the impact of extreme weather events last year," said Mami Mizutori, UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Xinhua news agency reported.
Mizutori said that floods, droughts, storms, and wildfires affected 57.3 million people, underlining once more that "if we want to reduce disaster losses, then we must improve how we manage disaster risk."
The country most affected by disasters was India, where there were 23.9 million people hit, followed by the Philippines with almost 6.5 million people impacted, and then China with 6.4 million affected.
The country with the most deaths was Indonesia with 4,535, followed by India (1,388), Guatemala (427), Japan (419) and China with 341 deaths.
The UN official said that time is running out for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Centigrade or 2 degrees Centigrade.
"We have to be equally active about climate change adaptation which means reducing disaster risk in our cities, avoiding the creation of new risk by better land use, stronger planning regulations and building codes, safeguarding protective eco-systems, reducing poverty, and taking active measures to reduce exposure to rising sea levels," she said.
The 2018 toll of 10,373 lives lost compares with an annual average of 77,144 deaths recorded between 2000 and 2017.
These were averages inflated by the large-scale loss of life in catastrophic events such as the Indian Ocean tsunami (2004), Cyclone Nargis (2008) and the Haitian earthquake (2010).
There were no such mega-disasters in 2018, but the loss of life from significant natural hazards appears to be on the decline likely due to improving standards of living, and better disaster risk management, said the UN agency.