Press Release 007/2011

Poor Countries Are Hit Harder by Earthquakes

In 2010, About 200,000 People Died Due to Earthquakes Worldwide – KIT Researcher Submits Global Damage Report and Analyzes the Reasons
Katastrophen und ihre Folgen: Bilder von Erdbeben 2010.  (Fotos: CEDIM)
Catastrophes and their consequences: Earthquakes in 2010. (Photos: CEDIM)

In 2010, earthquakes caused enormous damage worldwide. The horrible figures: About 200,000 fatal casualties, nearly three million homeless people, and more than 50 billion US dollars of losses. A detailed analysis of the catastrophes and the reasons of their variable impacts has now been submitted by James Daniell from the Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology (CEDIM) of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

Daniell’s report on global earthquakes in 2010 is based on the CATDAT database that has been established systematically by the scientist since 2003. It considers online archives, reports of institutions, publications in books and journals, as well as other data collections worldwide. His work is funded by a grant of the General Sir John Monash Foundation in Australia.

At least 91 earthquakes occurred last year, during which people died, were injured or became homeless or during which considerable damage was caused. 33 countries were affected. Most frequently, 13 times, the earth quaked in China, 10 times in Iran.

Daniell analyzes the conditions in the countries affected and can explain why the disasters have highly variable impacts. The earthquake in Haiti that reached level 7 of the moment magnitude scale (Mw) had the most devastating effects: It caused up to 225,000 fatal casualties. Between 1 and 2.1 million people lost their homes. The earthquake in Chile reached level 8.8 Mw. About 800,000 people lost their homes, but only 600 died, far less than in Haiti. The reason: With Haiti, the earthquake hit one of the least developed countries in the world. More than 70% of the people in Haiti possess less than 2 dollars per day and, hence, live below the poverty level. Plans for protection against earthquakes hardly exist, most houses are constructed very simply. In Chile, by contrast, stable buildings prevented a far higher number of casualties. Here, where about 2% of the population live below the poverty level, the impacts of the earthquake were less severe, although the amount of losses of 30 billion US dollars by far exceeded the amount of damage in Haiti (8 billion US dollars). This sum corresponds to more than 100% of the nominal gross domestic product of Haiti, which is why this disaster is among the ten most devastating earthquakes since 1900.

Daniell concludes: “Socioeconomic vulnerability of the country has to be taken into account in risk assessment.” Daniell’s data confirm that higher developed countries have more comprehensive construction regulations, conduct better research into earthquake risks and effects, have a more reliable way of constructing buildings, and take more extensive measures to reduce the risks. ”And they prepare better for disaster management.”


Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 9,600 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 23,300 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.

ele, 18.01.2011


Monika Landgraf
Head of Corporate Communications, Chief Press Officer
Phone: +49 721 608-41150
Fax: +49 721 608-43658
presseLmr5∂kit edu

Contact for this press release:

Klaus Rümmele
Presse, Kommunikation und Marketing (PKM)
Phone: +49 721 608-48153
Fax: +49 721 608-45681
klaus ruemmeleKcf1∂kit edu
The photo in the best quality available to us may be requested by
presseXwp7∂kit edu or phone: +49 721 608-41105.

The press release is available as a PDF file.