220.127.116.11 Definition of large-scale disasters
There exist several definitions for large-scale disasters. The ones provided next are among the most prevalent and commonly used:
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
OECD defines as being of large-scale any serious disaster which:
- Causes huge casualties or property losses and/or results in infrastructure large-scale damage
- Can hardly be coped with by only one nation or region and it shall therefore be handled by means of external resources
According to the above, a major disaster is a catastrophic, high-consequence event which:
- overwhelms or threatens to overwhelm local and regional response capability; and
- is caused by natural phenomenon, massive infrastructure failure, industrial accident, or malevolent action.
Indicators of capacity overload include the following:
- inability to adequately manage immediate rescue of survivors
- significant backlog of victims waiting to get medical care or other essential support
- inability to protect vital infrastructure or prevent significant property damage
- signs of uncontrolled societal breakdown and psychological trauma
- The USA Insurance Services Office defines a large-scale disaster as any event that causes a direct covered-property loss of at least $25 million (USD) and affects a certain number of insurers and insureds.
- Swiss Re (Swiss Reinsurance Company) defines this loss amount as $38.7 million.
- According to Munich Re (Munich Reinsurance Company), any natural disaster is defined as a catastrophe, provided that, upon occurrence of such a natural disaster that the disaster area cannot help itself with its force, but has to rely on the regional or international assistance.
- Ma Zongjin , academician of Chinese Academy of Sciences, defines as Large-scale Disaster any disaster causing more than 10,000 human casualties (deaths) and a direct economic loss of over RMB 10 billion Yuan (1.6 billion $).
- Mohamed Gad-el-Hak , Professor of Biomedical Engineering and former chair of mechanical engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University, defines disasters as shown in Table 18.104.22.168.1:
Table 22.214.171.124.1 – Disaster categories, characterization and magnitude of impact
|Category||Disaster characterization||Number of casualties or size of area impacted|
<10 persons or <1 km2
10–100 persons or 1–10 km2
100–1,000 persons or 10–100 km2
1000–10,000 persons or 100–1,000 km2
>10,000 persons or >1,000 km2
- Peijun Shi , Professor and vice-president of Beijing Normal University, member of the Expert Committee under the National Disaster Reduction Committee of China and also a member of OECD’s High Level Advisory Board on Financial Management of Large‐Scale Catastrophes, provided one of the most complete and detailed definition for large-scale disasters: “a serious disaster due to disasters encountered once in one century, causing huge human casualties and economics losses and wide range of impact, which, upon occurring, cannot be independently coped with by the disaster areas and has to be aided by means of external forces”
Generally speaking, such large-scale disasters will have an impact comparable to that of an earthquake of intensity/magnitude at least 7.0 on the Richter scale and it will usually cause:
- total casualties (deaths) of more than 10,000 persons
- direct economic loss of more than €10 billion ($12 billion)
- affected area of over 100,000 km2
The aforementioned impacts are subject to the following specifications:
- Casualties include population killed and population missing for more than 1 month;
- Direct economic loss equal to the value of properties actually damaged within a year from and due to the disaster;
- Affected area refers to the disaster area with human casualties or property loss or damaged ecological system due to the disaster.
Therefore, for a disaster to be characterized as being of large-scale it must meet any two of the following conditions:
- Death toll of more than 1,000 persons;
- Direct economic loss of more than 1 billion $;
- Affected area of over 10,000 km2.
Table 126.96.36.199.2 summarizes qualitatively the main characteristics of large-scale disasters, as these pertain to the aforementioned definitions for the purposes of this report.
Table 188.8.131.52.2 – Large-scale disaster characteristics
|Main characteristics||Disaster mode||Occurence||Scale of single disaster||Disaster status|
Does not change
Table 184.108.40.206.3 provides a summary of major single-mode disaster, which occurred in the 1989-2013 period with their respective impacts.
Table 220.127.116.11.3 – Large-scale disasters and respective impacts worldwide (1989-2013)
|Year||Disaster Name||Intensity (Richter)||Death Toll|
Kobe Earthquake Disaster in Japan
Yangtze River Basin Flood in China
SARS in China
European Heat Wave
Indian Ocean Earthquake – Tsunami Disaster
800 x 5 km coastal line seriously damaged
Kashmir Earthquake in South Asia
Burma Hurricane Disaster
Freezing Rain & Snow Disaster in Southern China
Wenchuan Earthquake Disaster in China