As this volume goes to print, millions of people in Asia attempt to rebuild their lives and communities following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that occurred on December 26, 2004. The earthquake occurred off the coast of Sumatra, registering 9.0 on the Richter scale, and causing tsunami waves that swept through the Indian Ocean at a rate of 500–700 km per hour, devastating coastal areas of countries across South and Southeast Asia and East Africa. More than 220,000 people were killed, thousands more were injured, and millions affected. Damage to infrastructure, social systems, and the environment has been substantial. At the time of this writing, preliminary damage and needs assessments undertaken by the World Bank and other partners estimate the damages at nearly $6 billion for Indonesia, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka alone.
The tragic impacts and seeming enormity of this event have thrown many around the world into a state of disbelief. As shocking as the tsunami disaster is, however, it's important to remember that events of this magnitude have happened in other places around the world, and they will happen again. In 1984, persistent droughts in Ethiopia and Sudan killed 450,000. In Bangladesh in 1991, nearly 150,000 lives were taken by a cyclone. Hundreds of natural disasters, both large and small, occur each year. While the largest capture the attention of the global media, there are hundreds more events that we don't hear about. The cumulative effect of these smaller and medium-sized disasters have equally devastating impacts on developing countries: loss of development gains, torn communities, and increased impoverishment. The poor in these countries are consistently the most severely affected.
The Hotspots initiative began in 2001, when the World Banks Disaster Management Facility (DMF), now the Hazard Management Unit (HMU), initiated discussions with the newly established Center for Hazards and Risk Research (CHRR) at Columbia University to discuss the possibility of a global-scale, multihazard risk analysis focused on identifying key [hotspots] where the risks of natural disasters are particularly high. The project would aim to provide information and methods to inform priorities for reducing disaster risk and making decisions on development investment. Discussions culminated in a jointly sponsored [brainstorming] workshop held at Columbia in September 2001 at which a small group of experts examined in depth whether such an analysis was feasible and worthwhile. A summary of the workshop and presentations is available on the ProVention Consortium Web site at: http://www.proventionconsortium.org/conferences/highriskhotspots.htm.
Developed from that initial workshop, the Identification of Global Natural Disaster Risk Hotspots (Hotspots) project was implemented under the umbrella of the ProVention Consortium by World Bank staff from the HMU and the Development Economics Research Group (DECRG) and Columbia University staff from the CHRR, the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction (IRI), and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO). The project has also benefited greatly from close collaboration with the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), and other individuals and groups.
In November 2002, a second workshop was held at Columbia University involving experts on key natural . . .