Hurricanes, torrential rains, heat waves, cyclones, deadly flooding, wildfires — the number of extreme weather disasters per year has increased significantly across the world.
So far this year, several countries, including the U.S., have witnessed the destructive impact of natural disasters, with the loss of human lives being the most tragic outcome.
This week, at least 56 people in five countries have died as torrential rainstorms caused flash floods to inundate streets, homes and public buildings.
Hong Kong was hit with the heaviest rainfall ever recorded since it began tracking in 1884 — that's 139 years ago. It received over 23 inches of rain, a quarter of its annual average. In one hour from 11 p.m. Thursday to midnight, more than 6 inches of rain was recorded, a record high for China that led to severe flooding of city streets. Local police reported two fatalities from drowning.
After a summer of deadly wildfires that killed at least 21 people, extensive floods hit central Greece and resulted in the deaths of at least six people. The flooding was triggered by severe rainstorms that turned calm streams into fierce torrents, breaking dams, sweeping away roads and bridges, and sending cars plunging into the sea.
"Our country finds itself, for the third day, dealing with a phenomenon the likes of which we have not seen in the past," said Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis.
The Greek fire service has rescued 1,800 people so far, and six were reported missing, according to the Associated Press.
The same weather system affected Turkey and Bulgaria, causing flooding. Officials report at least eight fatalities in Turkey and four in Bulgaria.
In South America, a cyclone triggered severe flooding in southern Brazil, resulting in houses being swept away, motorists stranded in their vehicles, and inundated streets across several cities. As of Thursday, officials had reported that the flooding had resulted in 36 fatalities and had left about 2,300 people homeless.
In the U.S. last week, Hurricane Idalia caused three deaths and widespread damage in parts of Florida. Last month, a wildfire in Hawaii killed at least 115 people, making it one of Hawaii's worst natural disasters and the nation's deadliest since 1918.
All of this comes as the World Meteorological Organization declared that the Earth experienced its hottest Northern Hemisphere summer ever recorded, and as of last month, the U.S. had lost 147 people due to extreme heat.
In 2022, major weather and climate disasters cost the U.S. $177.3 billion. So far this year, the total cost of the events is about $39.7 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Natural disasters have caused approximately $194 billion in global losses during the first half of this year, according to a study from Aon.
Scientists attribute the increase in severe weather patterns to human-caused climate change and the natural El Niño phenomenon.
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