Despite many fleeing to Erbil, there is fear Islamic State, formerly ISIS, will advance and even the Kurdish capital is not safe
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A boy walks along a street in the heavily damaged Rockaway neighborhood, in Queens, N.Y., where Superstorm Sandy washed away a large section of the iconic boardwalk on Nov. 2, 2012.
More than 32 million people – a number that nearly equals the entire population of California – were forced to flee their homes last year due to natural disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes, according to a report released today.
Disasters affected countries rich and poor, notes the study issued May 13 by the Geneva, Switzerland-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. While Asia and Africa were hit hardest, the report notes, some 1.3 million people were displaced in wealthy nations, especially the United States.
Nearly all of those uprooted by disaster (98 percent, according to the report) were displaced by climate- and weather-related events. Floods in India and Nigeria were responsible for 41 percent of displacement worldwide in 2012. Monsoon floods in India uprooted about 6.9 million people, while in Nigeria some 6.1 million were newly displaced.
The impact of natural disasters on countries like these is often multiplied by ongoing armed conflict, noted Clare Spurrell, IDMC’s chief spokesperson.
“Here, vulnerability to disaster triggered by floods is frequently further compounded by hunger, poverty and violence, resulting in a perfect storm of risk factors that lead to displacement,” she said.
Last year, the U.S. was among the 10 countries that experienced the most new displacement, the reported noted. Still, people in poorer countries remain disproportionately affected, as they make up some 98 percent of those displaced around the world over the past 5 years.
“In the U.S. following Hurricane Sandy, most of those displaced were able to find refuge in adequate temporary shelter while displaced from their own homes,” said Spurrell.
“Compare this to communities in Haiti, where hundreds of thousands are still living in makeshift tents over three years after the 2010 earthquake mega-disaster, and you see a very different picture.”
Climate change is believed to play an increasingly significant role in global disasters, the report notes, adding that the 2012 Special Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found evidence to support that, “disasters associated with climate extremes influence population mobility and relocation, affecting host and origin communities.”