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Causes of death and demographic characteristics of victims of meteorological disasters in Korea from 1990 to 2008

Author(s): Myung Hyung-Nam | Jang Jae-Yeon

Journal: Environmental Health
ISSN 1476-069X

Volume: 10;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 82;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: climate change | disasters | flood | typhoon | death rate | vulnerability | epidemiology

Abstract Background Meteorological disasters are an important component when considering climate change issues that impact morbidity and mortality rates. However, there are few epidemiological studies assessing the causes and characteristics of deaths from meteorological disasters. The present study aimed to analyze the causes of death associated with meteorological disasters in Korea, as well as demographic and geographic vulnerabilities and their changing trends, to establish effective measures for the adaptation to meteorological disasters. Methods Deaths associated with meteorological disasters were examined from 2,045 cases in Victim Survey Reports prepared by 16 local governments from 1990 to 2008. Specific causes of death were categorized as drowning, structural collapse, electrocution, lightning, fall, collision, landslide, avalanche, deterioration of disease by disaster, and others. Death rates were analyzed according to the meteorological type, specific causes of death, and demographic and geographic characteristics. Results Drowning (60.3%) caused the greatest number of deaths in total, followed by landslide (19.7%) and structural collapse (10.1%). However, the causes of deaths differed between disaster types. The meteorological disaster associated with the greatest number of deaths has changed from flood to typhoon. Factors that raised vulnerability included living in coastal provinces (11.3 times higher than inland metropolitan), male gender (1.9 times higher than female), and older age. Conclusions Epidemiological analyses of the causes of death and vulnerability associated with meteorological disasters can provide the necessary information for establishing future adaptation measures against climate change. A more comprehensive system for assessing disaster epidemiology needs to be established.

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