Natural disasters in Latin America – statistics & facts

Natural disasters are extreme environmental events caused by geological processes or weather conditions such as seismic activity, tropical cyclones, heavy rainfall, or drought. Floods have been the most common type of natural disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, drought is the event affecting the largest number of people in the region. In recent years, some of the deadliest natural catastrophes occurred in Latin America include the Brumadinho muslide in Brazil, and hurricanes Eta and Dorian.

Water-related disasters: the greatest challenge

Water can be both a bliss and a curse. Massive rainfall, river overflows, and deficient infrastructure often put Latin American communities on the verge of crisis and destruction. For instance, in Brazil, over seven million residents are estimated to live at risk of landslides and flash floods. Landslides usually occur in mountainous regions after heavy or prolonged rainfall. Even though most of these events happen for geological reasons, human actions such as deforestation, mining, and dwelling construction in unfit areas intensify the prevalence of their impact.

Water scarcity, on the other hand, is one of the most pressing issues for Latin American countries with vast arid or desertic territory, especially those located within the Andean region, such as Chile, Peru, and Bolivia. According to a recent study, Bolivia is the most vulnerable Latin American country to suffering from drought, in terms of frequency and estimated impact. Another recent survey revealed Chile and Mexico to be the most exposed states to water stress in the region, measured by the intensity of water use and its available, renewable supply.

Impact of natural disasters in the Caribbean

Bordering the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, the countries and territories located in the Caribbean Basin are especially vulnerable to tropical storms, floods, and hurricanes, as well as seismic activity such as earthquakes. Island nations are particularly susceptible to large-scale devastation, exacerbated by climate change and expected to increase in severity. As increasingly more citizens face the destruction of their homes and subsequent economic crisis in the wake of natural disasters, large-scale migrations are on the rise. For instance, following Hurricane Maria, approximately 14 percent of the total population emigrated from Puerto Rico between 2017 and 2019. As of 2020, Hurricane Maria was the costliest natural disaster in the Caribbean since the beginning of the century, just ahead of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Interesting statistics

In the following 7 chapters, you will quickly find the 35 most important statistics relating to "Natural disasters in Latin America".


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