GENEVA: Natural disasters ranging from floods to earthquakes forced 32.4 million people to flee their homes worldwide last year, watchdog group the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center said on Monday.
While Asia and west and central Africa bore the brunt, 1.3 million were displaced in rich countries, with Hurricane Sandy in the United States accounting for 900,000 alone, the Geneva-based IMDC said.
Internally displaced is a label given to individuals who remain in their homeland, to distinguish them from those who cross borders and are counted as refugees.
The hardest-hit countries in 2012 were India and Nigeria.
Flooding in both countries forced 6.9 million and 6.1 million people, respectively, to flee.
Over the past five years, 81 percent of global displacement has occurred in Asia, the IMDC said.
But in 2012, Africa reached its high-ever number with 8.2 million people newly displaced.
The figure was quadruple that seen in any of the previous four years.
Natural disasters compound the impact of other crises, the IMDC underlined.
“In countries already facing the effects of conflict and food insecurity such as in Nigeria, Pakistan, and South Sudan, we observe a common theme,” spokeswoman Clare Spurrell said in a statement.
International experts have warned that the number of people displaced by disasters is set to rise in the face of climate change.