A disaster is a serious disruption occurring over a short or long period of time that causes widespread human, material, economic or environmental loss which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources. Developing countries suffer the greatest costs when a disaster hits – more than 95% of all deaths caused by hazards occur in developing countries, and losses due to natural hazards are 20 times greater (as a percentage of GDP) in developing countries than in industrialized countries. No matter what society disasters occur in, they tend to induce change in government and social life. They may even alter the course of history by broadly affecting entire populations and exposing mismanagement or corruption regardless of how tightly information is controlled in a society.


The word ''disaster'' is derived from Middle French ''désastre'' and that from Old Italian ''disastro'', which in turn comes from the Ancient Greek pejorative prefix δυσ-, (''dus-'') "bad" and ἀστήρ (''aster''), "star". The root of the word ''disaster'' ("bad star" in Greek) comes from an astrology, astrological sense of a calamity blamed on the position of planets.


Disasters are routinely divided into natural or human-made, although complex disasters, where there is no single root cause, are more common in developing country, developing countries. A specific disaster may spawn a secondary disaster that increases the impact. A classic example is an earthquake that causes a tsunami, resulting in coastal flooding. Some manufactured disasters have been ascribed to nature. Some researchers also differentiate between recurring events such as seasonal flooding, and those considered unpredictable.

Natural disasters

A natural disaster is a natural process or phenomenon that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage. Various phenomena like earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, tsunamis, cyclones and pandemics are all natural hazards that kill thousands of people and destroy billions of dollars of habitat and property each year. However, the rapid growth of the world's population and its increased concentration often in hazardous environments has escalated both the frequency and severity of disasters. With the tropical climate and unstable landforms, coupled with deforestation, unplanned growth proliferation, non-engineered constructions make the disaster-prone areas more vulnerable. Developing countries suffer more or less chronically from natural disasters due to ineffective communication combined with insufficient budgetary allocation for Emergency management, disaster prevention and management.

Human-made disasters

Human-instigated disasters are the consequence of technological or human hazards. Examples include stampedes, fires, transport accidents, industrial accidents, oil spills, terrorist attacks, nuclear explosions/nuclear radiation. War and deliberate attacks may also be put in this category. Other types of induced disasters include the more cosmic scenarios of catastrophic climate change, nuclear war, and bioterrorism. One opinion argues that all disasters can be seen as human-made, due to human failure to introduce appropriate emergency management measures.Blaikie, Piers, Terry Cannon, Ian Davis & Ben Wisner. ''At Risk – Natural hazards, people's vulnerability and disasters'', Wiltshire: Routledge, 2003,


The following table categorizes some disasters and notes first response initiatives.''Business Continuity Planning (BCP): Sample Plan For Nonprofit Organizations.''
Pages 11-12. Retrieved 8 August 2012.

See also

* Act of God * Catastrophic failure * Disaster convergence * Disaster medicine * Disaster recovery * Disaster recovery and business continuity auditing * Disaster recovery plan * Disaster research * Disaster response * Emergency management * Environmental emergency * Human extinction * List of accidents and disasters by death toll * Lists of disasters * Opportunism * Sociology of disaster


Further reading

* Barton, Allen H. ''Communities in Disaster: A Sociological Analysis of Collective Stress Situations'', Doubleday, 1st edition 1969, ASIN: B0006BVVOW * Susanna M. Hoffman, Susanna M. & Anthony Oliver-Smith, authors & editors. ''Catastrophe and Culture: The Anthropology of Disaster'', School of American Research Press, 1st edition 2002, * Bankoff, Greg, Georg Frerks, Dorothea Hilhorst. ''Mapping Vulnerability: Disasters, Development and People'', Routledge, 2004, * Alexander, David. ''Principles of Emergency planning and Management'', Oxford University Press, 1 edition 2002, * Quarantelli, E. L. (2008). "Conventional Beliefs and Counterintuitive Realities". Conventional Beliefs and Counterintuitive Realities in Social Research: an international Quarterly of the social Sciences, Vol. 75 (3): 873–904. * Paul, B. K et al. (2003). "Public Response to Tornado Warnings: a comparative Study of the 4 May 2003 Tornadoes in Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee". Quick Response Research Report, no 165, Natural Hazard Center, Universidad of Colorado * Kahneman, D. y Tversky, A. (1984). "Choices, Values and frames". American Psychologist 39 (4): 341–350. * Beck, U. (2006). Risk Society, towards a new modernity. Buenos Aires, Paidos * Aguirre, B. E & Quarantelli, E. H. (2008). "Phenomenology of Death Counts in Disasters: the invisible dead in the 9/11 WTC attack". International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters. Vol. 26 (1): 19–39. * Wilson, H. (2010). "Divine Sovereignty and The Global Climate Change debate". Essays in Philosophy. Vol. 11 (1): 1–7 * Uscher-Pines, L. (2009). "Health effects of Relocation following disasters: a systematic review of literature". Disasters. Vol. 33 (1): 1–22. * Scheper-Hughes, N. (2005). "Katrina: the disaster and its doubles". Anthropology Today. Vol. 21 (6). * Phillips, B. D. (2005). "Disaster as a Discipline: The Status of Emergency Management Education in the US". International Journal of Mass-Emergencies and Disasters. Vol. 23 (1): 111–140. * Mileti, D. and Fitzpatrick, C. (1992). "The causal sequence of Risk communication in the Parkfield Earthquake Prediction experiment". Risk Analysis. Vol. 12: 393–400. * Perkins, Jamey
"The Calamity of Disaster – Recognizing the possibilities, planning for the event, managing crisis and coping with the effects"
Public Safety Degrees

External links

List of Disasters at ReliefWeb
of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
The Disaster Roundtable
of the National Academy of Sciences
EM-DAT International Disaster Database
of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters
Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System
– The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System is a joint initiative of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the European Commission
– UN-SPIDER, the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response], a project of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) {{Authority control Disasters,