Natural disasters risk in India

India, the second most populated country in the world, is highly exposed to natural disasters. Due to its geographical location, seismic risk zone and intertropical convergence point, the Indian subcontinent also faces recurring atmospheric phenomena: heavy monsoon rains, floods, episodes of high heat, drought, etc.

inde inondationIn addition, the high population density in risk areas further aggravates the situation. The number of human casualties continues to rise, from 1 674 deaths in 2015 to 2 045 in 2019.

According to the report of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the total number of people who died between 2 000 and 2 019 is 79 732.

During the same period, India had reported 321 catastrophic events. It is the third country in the world in terms of the number of natural disasters, behind China and the United States.

According to the same report, India has suffered nearly 80 billion USD in economic losses in 20 years.

Breakdown of natural disasters in India per type of event and nature of losses

 Natural disastersMaterial lossHuman loss

Source : World Bank

Some of the most frequent disasters include :


After China, India is the second country hardest hit by floods with no less than 17 of such events annually, affecting 345 million Indians.

This scourge has caused a significant number of casualties and major economic damage to infrastructure, property, livelihoods and crops.

Heavy monsoon rains in the eastern part of the country often cause the Brahmaputra River to overflow, with disastrous consequences.

According to the 2019 Global Climate Risk Index report, floods account for 52% of the total calamities affecting India, claiming 63% of the material damage and 32% of the human losses reported as natural disasters.

On an annual average, 7.500.000 hectares are flooded, and 1.600 lives are lost.


The probability of an earthquake is high in India, with nearly 60% of the territory being classified as a moderate to severe seismic risk zone.

According to seismologists, the Himalayas, one of the regions most exposed to earthquakes, should one day suffer a mega-shock caused by the pressure accumulated in the subsoil of the Himalayan arc.

The last earthquake to date occurred in 2015. With a magnitude of 7.8, the earthquake killed 9 000 people and injured more than 20 000 others. More than 600 000 homes were also destroyed by the tremor.


Located in the intertropical convergence zone, the Indian subcontinent is one of the regions most affected by cyclones. Its coastline stretching over more than 8 000 kilometers accounts for nearly 10% of the world's tropical cyclones, the majority of which emerge over the Bay of Bengal and strike the east coast of India.

On average, six to eight depressions form each year, two or three of which turn into tropical cyclones. A major cyclone (category 3 or more) develops every two years.

In May 2020, Cyclone Amphan, devastated India and Bangladesh, killing 84 people and devastating the coastal areas of both countries. It was the most powerful cyclone to hit the Bay of Bengal since the 1999 cyclone that killed 10 000 people in Odisha State (northeast India).

Heat waves and droughts

Extreme temperatures and resulting weather conditions significantly affect the health of residents and the agricultural sector. With global warming, these episodes of intense heat, more than 50 degrees, are becoming increasingly frequent.

According to Indian authorities, in the last four years the country has reported no less than 4 620 deaths caused by heat waves which generally occur between March and June.

The last event of this kind occurred in June 2019, claiming the lives of 50 people in 24 hours.

Over the past 20 years, India has also sustained the two most severe droughts in the world. They took place in 2002 and 2015 and affected 300 and 330 million Indians, respectively.

Despite the affordability of coverage and the intensity and frequency of natural events, the penetration rate of natural catastrophe insurance in India is almost nil, with less than 1% of the population contracting an insurance policy for this type of risk.

For several years, the authorities have been planning to set up a national pool dedicated to natural disasters, a structure struggling to see the light of day.

List of major natural disasters that have occurred over the last 20 years in India

DatePlaceNature of the eventEconomic lossesInsured lossesNumber of fatalitiesNumber of affected persons
(in billion USD)
May 2020
West BengalHurricane Amphan13.5ND103500 000 homeless
August 2018
KeralaFloods3.520.37504223 139 homeless
November 2015
Chennai (Tamil Nadu)Floods2.370.98289-
April 2015
HimalayaStorm--7820 000 injured
October 2014
Andhra PradeshStorm7.560.686843 injured
September 2014
Jammu and KashmirFloods6.450.26665-
June 2013
UttarranchalFloods1.210.555 7484 473 injured
271 931 homeless
September 2009
Andhra PradeshFloods5.630.063002 000 000 homeless
August 2006
GujaratFloods4.30.523504 000 000 homeless
July 2005
MaharashtraFloods4.360.931 15015 000 homeless
January 2001
GujaratEarthquake6.130.1419 737166 850 injured
1 790 000 homeless

Source: Swiss Re

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