‘Exposed’ Japan at far higher disaster risk than other developed nations: report

Kyodo

Japan is well-equipped to cope with natural hazards but faces a far greater risk from disasters than other developed nations due to its high exposure to earthquakes and floods, a U.N. University report has shown.

Japan ranked 17th among 171 countries surveyed, while many other developed nations placed below the No. 100 threshold. Topping the list was Vanuatu, an island country in the South Pacific, followed by other developing nations including Tonga, the Philippines and Bangladesh.

The rankings, released Thursday, are based on an index that rates risk related to five natural hazards — earthquakes, cyclones, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

In the index, Japan’s “vulnerability” to disasters was 28.29 percent, which is around the same as that of the United States and Britain. However, Japan ranked fourth on the list of the world’s most exposed countries, with levels standing at 45.91 percent.

The report said Japan shows that “a low level of vulnerability cannot fully compensate for extreme exposure.”

“Despite its very low vulnerability, the country is in place 17 in the WorldRiskIndex because of its very high exposure, mainly to earthquakes and floods,” it noted.

Combining all of the study’s components, Japan was ranked among the most at-risk nations coming in 17th after Fiji.

On the other end of the spectrum, the United States ranked 127th, Britain 131st and China 85th. The country with the lowest disaster risk was Qatar in the Middle East.

Countries like Vanuatu, the Philippines and Bangladesh are at risk of losing land amid fears that global warming could lead to rising sea levels while also creating powerful cyclones that cause ever-more serious damage.

The report also highlights the need to further aid developing nations in boosting their abilities to cope with natural hazards. It also spotlights Japan’s need to further bolster its own disaster preparedness.

The report cited Cambodia and Haiti among countries facing a “very urgent need for action” due to insufficient transport infrastructure and poor electricity supply situations that — if improved — could contribute to preventing a disaster.