Earthquakes killed more people last year than all other types of natural disasters combined, new United Nations figures show.
A report by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction shows 20,943 people died in earthquakes last year, out of a total 29,782 people killed by 302 disasters.
Most of the quake toll was from the massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that claimed the lives of 19,846 people in Japan last March.
However, it was the 182 deaths from the February 22 Christchurch earthquake that hit hardest for New Zealand.
UNISDR chief Margareta Wahlström said many major cities such as Christchurch needed to ready themselves for the possibility of more destructive earthquakes.
"In 2010 we saw this phenomenon as well when over 220,000 people died in Haiti, which had not been hit by an earthquake of such strength for almost 200 years."
"Unless we prepare for the worst then many earthquake-prone urban areas around the world are destined to see even greater loss of life in the future as more and more people move to cities."
Floods were the second biggest killer of 2011, claiming more than 5,000 lives.
Storms killed more than 3,000 people, while extreme temperatures claimed 231 lives compared to the annual 10-year average of 14,731 between 2001 and 2010.
Asia accounted for 45 per cent of disasters and more than 85 per cent of the total death toll.
Meanwhile, Europe experienced very few disasters and impacts in 2011 with the lowest numbers killed, numbers affected and economic damages since 1990.
- HERALD ONLINE