Advanced economies cope better with disasters

It has always seemed to me that the worst devastation in natural disasters befalls the poor. That is not to say that people with money cannot be harmed but the ability to adapt plays a significant role in recovery from any situation.

By Alan Wheatley, Global Economics CorrespondentPosted 2011/03/13 at 10:16 am EDT

BEIJING, Mar. 13, 2011 (Reuters) — The earthquake that devastated northeast Japan displaced the country’s main island by 2.4 meters and even tilted the axis of the Earth by nearly 10 centimeters. The shock sounds awesome but it was imperceptible. History suggests the same will be true of the economic impact.

Smoke and scattered containers are seen at a devastated factory area after an earthquake and tsunami in Sendai, northern Japan, March 13, 2011. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The instinctive reaction when viewing the extensive damage and frantic efforts to secure damaged nuclear reactors is to assume economic havoc will follow.

But researchers who have studied similar disasters in rich countries reach a reassuring conclusion: human resilience and resourcefulness, allied to an ability to draw down accumulated wealth, enable economies to rebound quickly from what seem at first to be unbearable inflictions – be it the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York or Friday’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake, the worst in Japan’s history.

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