News

Death toll in Turkey and Syria earthquakes reaches historic scale

This week’s earthquakes in Syria and Turkey are the deadliest in either country since 1939, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.

The latest estimates suggest that at least 25,000 people were killed in the disaster and the number is still rising.

Improvements in early detection, infrastructure and emergency response systems have reduced the total death toll from natural disasters over the past century, despite the growing global population.

But fatalities from earthquakes are among the hardest to prevent and many of the most vulnerable populations live in low-income countries. Over the past 50 years, earthquakes in China, Haiti and Indonesia (and the ensuing tsunami) have each killed more than 200,000 people.

The deadliest earthquake ever recorded happened in Shaanxi, China, in 1556. An estimated 830,000 people died. This is more than twice as many as the world’s second most fatal earthquake in Haiti in 2010, which killed 316,000 people, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Amy Borrett

Our other charts of the week . . . 

Workers around the world saved 72 minutes of commuting time per day on average by working from home in 2021 and 2022, according to a working paper from the US National Bureau of Economic Research.

Employees in Asia — particularly in China, Japan, India, Singapore and South Korea — saved the most time. At the other end of the scale were workers in Serbia, Poland and the US, who saved nearly 20 minutes less than the global average.

How did Asian workers use their saved time? More work. Around half was used for primary or secondary jobs, apart from Japan, where people spent a larger proportion of time on leisure.

Shotaro Tani

Lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures worsened women’s experience of maternity care during the pandemic according to the latest results from the UK’s Care Quality Commission maternity survey.

Patients’ dissatisfaction with staff availability and communication remains above pre-pandemic levels.

The findings will stoke medical professionals’ concern about the state of NHS maternity care in England. The sector is contending with a national and global shortage of midwives. More than a third of its services are rated either “inadequate” or “requires improvement”, up from 31 per cent a year ago.

Ella Hollowood

Russia had the best performing currency of 2022 on a real effective exchange rate (REER) basis — a measure of the currency’s strength against those of trading partners when adjusted for inflation.

The rouble was up 25 per cent year-on-year, propped up by capital controls which were introduced by the Russian central bank after Moscow was hit by international sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.

An increase in a country’s REER means its imports are getting cheaper, but exports are becoming more expensive.

By contrast, Japan’s REER hit a 50-year low as the country kept its monetary policy loose while other central banks started to raise rates.

Shotaro Tani

Nearly 17,000 animal species are listed as under threat, more than double the number in 2007, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Some species are more at risk than others. The number of mammal species considered to be at risk has increased by 22 per cent since 1998, but amphibians and reptiles at risk are up by 2,000 per cent and 628 per cent respectively over the same period.

This is because they tend to be concentrated in rainforest regions and are therefore threatened by deforestation.

Federica Cocco


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