Natural Disasters, Conflict, and Human Rights: Tracing the Connections
The evidence is clear that poverty is an important factor in understanding the effects of natural disasters. On 10 December 1988, an earthquake registering 6.9 on the Richter scale hit Armenia, killing some 55,000 people and leaving 500,000 homeless. Less than a year later, in October 1989, an even stronger earthquake, 7.1 on the Richter scale, hit San Francisco, California, killing 62 and leaving 12,000 homeless.
Within countries, it is almost always the poor and marginalized who are disproportionately affected by natural disasters. They tend to live in less safe environments and in less safe shelter. Shoddily-constructed slums are more vulnerable to earthquakes, landslides and flooding that the homes where the rich are more likely to live. Thus in the recent earthquake in Haiti, the homes of the country’s elite were located in neighborhoods which were less impacted by the tremors and their homes were more likely to withstand the shocks than those of poorer neighborhoods.
Source: Natural Disasters, Conflict, and Human Rights: Tracing the Connections | Brookings Institution