Country profiles

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EM-DAT presentation

In 1988, the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) launched the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT). EM-DAT was created with the initial support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Belgian Government.

The main objective of the database is to support humanitarian action at national and international levels. The initiative aims to rationalise decision making for disaster preparedness, as well as provide an objective base for vulnerability assessment and priority setting.

EM-DAT contains essential core data on the occurrence and effects of over 24,000 mass disasters in the world from 1900 to the present day. The database is compiled from various sources, including UN agencies, non-governmental organisations, insurance companies, research institutes and press agencies.

Since 2014, EM-DAT also georeferences the main types of natural disasters: earthquakes, volcanic activities, mass movements (dry), floods, landslides, storms, extreme temperatures, droughts and wildfires, retrospectively from 2000 onwards. This process adds value to the data for deeper analysis at a national as well as sub-national scale.

Disaster footprint

Within EM-DAT, disasters footprints are determined using the Global Administrative Unit Layers (GAUL). The GAUL is an initiative implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) and the projects.

The GAUL project aims to compile and distribute the best available information on administrative units for all countries in the world. The GAUL version used by the CRED is the version released in 2015. Each EM-DAT disaster is assigned to one or more administrative units, depending on its footprint.

EM-DAT recorded disaster criteria

CRED has four specific criteria to record disasters into EM-DAT. An event must meet at least one of them:

  • Ten or more people reported killed
  • 100 or more people reported affected
  • Declaration of a state of emergency
  • Call for international assistance

Disaster Classification

Concerning its disaster classification, EM-DAT distinguishes disasters with regard to the type of hazards that triggered them. EM-DAT classfies disasters following definitions of the IRDR Peril Classification and Hazard Glossary.

The peril glossary is a technical paper providing guidelines for classification and hazard definitions used in many loss databases such as NatCatService, Sigma, DesInventar and SHELDUS.

The disasters studied in this atlas represent all the events recorded as natural disasters by the EM-DAT classification between 2000 and 2018, with the exclusion of the subgroups of biological and extra-terrestrial disasters.

The complete EM-DAT classification can be found on

Country selection

This atlas is composed of twelve country profiles. Ten of them were selected using the following methodology.

The 30 countries with the highest number of natural disasters between 2000 and 2018 were selected from EM-DAT. For each country in this selection, we computed the average spatial resolution (ASR) of the administrative units used for georeferencing the events as follows:

$$ ASR = {\sqrt{ Country\:area \over Total\:number\:of\:administrative\:units} }.$$

The total number of administrative units for each country was calculated as the sum of the number of administrative units of the second (ADM 1) and third (ADM 2) levels of the GAUL dataset. In addition, each country selected had to have a total extent of at least 15 administrative units at the second level (ADM 1) and at least 15 administrative units at the third level (ADM 2) of the GAUL dataset (excluding small islands).

From this selection, the 10 countries with the lowest Average spatial resolution, and the minimum numbers of required administrative units at both second and third level, are:

  • Afghanistan
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Guatemala
  • Haiti
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Viet Nam

These were all selected as display countries for the EM-DAT Atlas. In addition to these 10, we added two more, since they corresponded to ongoing work within EM-DAT: Mozambique and the United States of America.