As reported by Quartz: Fewer people were killed or affected by natural disasters than in any other year in the past decade, according to a report (pdf) released Oct. 17. In 2012, some 15,706 died, compared to 37,907 in 2011 or almost 304,474 casualties in 2010, according to the International Federation of Red Cross, IFRC, and Red Crescent Societies.
The smaller death toll is in part because last year didn’t see brutal disasters like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that left over 230,000 dead in South and Southeast Asia, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, or the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, each of which killed over 100,000. But we can also thank cell phones for last year’s smaller disaster-related death toll, according to the IFRC report
In the Philippines, for example, which is struck by about 20 typhoons a year and whose population is scattered over thousands of archipelagos, mobile phones have been especially helpful. (Today, the number of cell phone subscriptions outnumber people.) The country has set up a surveillance system to send disaster damage reports and other data to emergency health officials via text messages. Before Typhoon Bopha—a category 5 super typhoon with winds of 280 km/h (175 mph) landed last year, authorities were able to evacuate some 41,000 citizens as well as quickly rescue people after the storm struck, thanks to cell phones and other communication technology. Even though Bopha was the most powerful storm the country had experienced up to that point, its death toll is behind that of eight other storms that hit before 2012. So far this year, 11 people have been killed during the worst typhoon of the year… Continue Reading