Natural hazards in Asia

The World Bank has identified Asia as the most hazardous continent in the world. Countries which are particularly prone to hazards are Japan, Indonesia, China, Bangladesh, Philippines and India.

Tectonic hazards

There are several plate boundaries which cross Asia.

Map showing tectonic plate boundaries in South East Asia

Earthquakes and tsunamis - Japan

Japan is situated near a destructive plate margin, where the Pacific Plate is being pushed under the Philippine Plate.

Earthquakes are common in Japan. Japan has invested money into research and resources to help prepare for earthquakes. The preparation includes:

  • earthquake drills (practice evacuations) are carried out each year
  • buildings are designed to withstand strong tremor
  • households have earthquake survival kits and are familiar with what to do in an earthquake

It is able to invest in earthquake preparation because it is a wealthy country.

On 11 March 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. This earthquake created a tsunami, which was 10 metres high in places.

A tsunami is most likely to happen:

  • when an earthquake focus is shallow
  • when the earthquake focus occurs in the ocean
  • when the earthquake is a high magnitude (6 or more)
Scientists wearing safety clothing near the Fukishima nuclear plant

The death toll from this earthquake is thought to be up to 30,000 people. It was the tsunami which caused the most deaths. Other problems were caused by this disaster included:

  • disruption to the infrastructure
  • radiation leaks from the nuclear power station at Fukushima
  • intermittent power (because many of the country's nuclear reactors were taken off-line while there was uncertainty about the radiation)
  • industries had reduced production because of the limited power supplies
  • debris left behind from the tsunami covered large areas

Climatic hazards and extreme weather

Asia also suffers from a variety of climatic hazards. These include:

  • mudflows, landslides and flooding caused by heavy rain during the monsoon season
  • tropical storms originating from the Pacific Ocean
  • too little rain causes drought in some areas, eg China's drought in 2011, followed by torrential rain. This caused crops to fail and food shortages
  • drought - about 14 per cent of the total land area in India is thought to be drought-prone