The Cost of Disasters

Dangerous environmental disasters put millions of people at risk every year. Events that can range from floods to tornadoes are known to devastate entire cities and landscapes, and often leave people to fend for themselves for days, or even weeks or longer. In particularly high-risk zones, many people have to cope with loss on a regular basis, and it can be even more difficult to establish long-term solutions for displacements that occur after natural disasters.

In the past, there have been tremendous costs associated with relief efforts in helping those affected by natural disasters. In 2012, $160 billion was raised for three hundred and ten disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, which left dozens dead in the United States.

“The number of catastrophes in 2019 was the highest number of catastrophes in any year with a threshold of $25 million or more in insured losses.”

Property Claim Services (PCS®)

In addition to the lives lost and people forced to evacuate because of such disasters, numerous financial losses regularly accommodate such disasters. Among these losses are directly affected things, such as lost income, lost buildings, lost assets, lost bridges, and other lost articles of infrastructure. Indirectly, the appearance of a sudden natural disaster can be enough to cause problems for the entire country. Loss of tax revenue, tourism, insurance, labor, and even sanitation are all problems expected to arise from a natural disaster.

Insured losses due to natural disasters in the United States in 2019 totaled $25.5 billion, down from about $52 billion total for 2018.

Severe thunderstorms, with about $20 billion in insured losses, accounted for 80 percent of natural disaster insured losses in 2019. Winter storms and cold waves and tropical cyclones each caused about $2 billion in insured losses, or 8 percent of total insured losses. Floods, earthquakes and other disasters accounted for the remainder of 2019 natural disaster losses

Tropical Storms and Hurricanes in the U.S., 1980-2018
(Insured property losses per state)

In 2013, over 22 million people had to flee their homes because of the sudden appearance of hurricanes, earthquakes, and typhoons. On average, as many as 27 million people become displaced from their homes every decade because of natural disasters. Floods and storms are the largest culprits, as they account for over eighty percent of all weather induced displacements.

Find more statistics at Statista

“Disasters and violence displaced two million people across the Americas in 2019”

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC)

California suffered the most destructive outbreak of wildfires in its history in 2018. More than 350,000 new displacements were recorded, 335,000 hectares of land burnt and more than 100 lives lost. The south-east coast of the US was struck by hurricanes Florence and Michael, which triggered nearly 850,000 displacements between them.

“Studies show that every one dollar spent on preparation can help save anywhere between three to seven dollars in spending on emergency response.””


“The United States, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, is heavily affected by disasters year after year, which demonstrates that anyone can be impacted by internal displacement,” said Alexandra Bilak, IDMC’s director.

Displacements due to natural disasters - Infographic

Eastern Kentucky University

Sources: The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), Eastern Kentucky University