These papers illustrate several interesting issues in attempting to assess data in this area; a key one of which is simply how hard it is to gather data in any systematic way. The papers review the published literature on each topic. In addition, each paper includes a historical review of events compiled from relevant databases in the specific field, dating back as far as 1900, which provide essential additional data.
What do these papers show? There are some fascinating highlights and some specific policy implications. For all of these natural disasters early warning seems to be key to preventing avoidable deaths such as those that occur in volcano eruptions (ie thermal injuries from pyroclastic flow) or in cyclones where drowning is, perhaps not surprisingly, the major cause of death.
These papers therefore tie into the disaster preparedness that rightly has such a high priority internationally with Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) – a 10 year plan that has a focus on the building resilience of nations and communities to disasters.
Moving forward these papers will provide a baseline from which other researchers can build. We at PLOS Currents: Disasters encourage submissions that address any of the issues highlighted by these reviews, especially submission of short reports on specific issues where timely publication is of the essence.