The El Niño that still persisted at the beginning of the year
sharply changed rainfall patterns, influenced temperature and wind patterns
in some areas, and probably contributed to droughts in India, China
and Australia (IRICP 2003). The floods of the summer monsoon rains from
April to August resulted in more than 180 deaths and around 400 000
homeless people in eastern India, Nepal and Bangladesh (Reuters 2003).
In May, a tropical storm across the Bay of Bengal, which was accompanied
by torrential rainfall, caused around 300 deaths and the displacement
of 200 000 people. The flooding, which severely damaged the infrastructure,
economy and livelihoods in the southwestern part of Sri Lanka, was considered
the worst in over 50 years (UNOCHA 2003, NOAA 2003). Heavy rains in
July also hit eight Chinese provinces. Numerous floods were blamed for
hundreds of lives. One hundred million people were affected and the
economic loss was estimated at US$5 000 million (CMA 2003a, IRICP 2003).
In eastern China, 640 000 ha of farmland were hit by drought and total
crop failure was reported for over 24 000 ha (Tong 2003). More than
seven million people suffered from a shortage of drinking water and
economic losses were estimated at US$109 million (CMA 2003b). In May,
1 438 people in India and 40 in Bangladesh died from a heatwave in South
Asia. The southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh was the worst affected,
with 1 317 reported deaths, as temperatures rose to between 45 and 49°
C (IRICP 2003). At the other extreme, in January a cold snap gripped
South Asia and took the lives of around 1 000 people in Bangladesh,
India and Nepal (Disaster Relief 2003).
The devastating mudslides in the Philippines in December, triggered
by a week of pounding rains in provinces near the Pacific Ocean, caused
over 200 deaths (NOAA 2003).
Asia and the Pacific is well-known for its vulnerability to earthquakes.
The earthquake which devastated Bam City in Iran in December was one
of the worst events of the year (Box 1).
1: Bam earthquake
On 26 December 2003, an earthquake of magnitude 6.5 struck
Bam City in south-eastern Iran, and killed at least 42 000
people, injured 30 000, and left 75 000 homeless. The earthquake
destroyed 80 per cent of wells and 87 per cent of the buildings
in the city of Bam, as well as the 2 000 year old medieval
fortress, the largest earthern structure in the world, which
sits on a cliff near the city and attracts thousands of tourists
each year. A total of 18 000 buildings in Bam and surrounding
villages were destroyed including 131 school buildings, three
hospitals, 95 health centres and 14 rural health clinics.
The earthquake killed at least 42 000 people, injured 30
000, and left 75 000 homeless.
Source: REUTERS/Caren Firouz
|Sources: IRIN 2004a, IRIN 2004b, UNOCHA 2004