Geneva, Jan 24 (DPA) More that 296,800 people were killed in 373 natural disasters last year, costing the world about $109 billion, a UN agency said Monday.
According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, the year was the 'deadliest year in at least two decades'.
The powerful earthquake in Haiti Jan 12, 2010 was the single largest event of the year and accounts for the lion's share of deaths, as it killed over 222,500 people.
A Russian heat wave over summer caused 'directly' about 56,000 fatalities and was the second most lethal disaster, said the centre, which is connected to the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).
Around 207 million people in total around the world were affected by natural disasters, including floods, quakes and landslides.
An earthquake in Chile in February was deemed the costliest natural disaster, exacting damages worth some $30 billion, the annual survey said.
Earthquakes also killed 2,968 people in China in April, while nearly 2,000 people died from massive floods in Pakistan.
'Unless we act now, we will see more and more disasters due to unplanned urbanization and environmental degradation,' Margareta Wahlstrom, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Disaster Reduction said in a statement.
'And weather-related disasters are sure to rise in the future, due to factors that include climate change,' Wahlstrom added.
Insurers have warned that part of what makes modern natural disasters more deadly and more costly are the human factors, such as dense urban population in poorly planned cities.
An example is Port-au-Prince, the impoverished and packed Haitian capital that was devastated in an earthquake last January.
The UN supports introducing disaster reduction strategies into urban planning.