Estonia: The safest country in the world

If you're looking to escape the possibility of disaster, it might be time to move to Estonia.

In the wake of recent natural disasters in Japan and New Zealand and recalling as far back as Haiti and New Orleans, statistics gathered by EM-DAT are suddenly very important to people wondering if it's possible to escape the earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes.

The EM-DAT database, established in 1988, is run by Belgium's Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disaster and includes records of over 11,000 major natural disasters.

EM-DAT's records have no mention of any fatal floods, droughts, earthquakes or severe storms in the following countries between the years of 1900 and 2009:

  • Estonia

  • Qatar

  • Bahrain

  • United Arab Emirates

  • Andorra

It should be noted that some man-contributing disasters (famine, wildfires, cholera, epidemics) are also included in the database, skewing natural-disaster-risk stats.

However, the absence of natural disasters does not mean a country is entirely safe. One need look no further than recent events in Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan to see how political and ideological strife can affect a country's stability.

So, it's hard to measure "safety," considering wealthier countries tend to sustain fewer casualties than the already destitute. Slate writer Jeremy Singer-Vine points out that disaster-risk studies focus on the most vulnerable areas, as those areas are likely to call for relief aid.

Estonia's "least vulnerable" status comes with a pretty clean record. Only dipped-to-extreme temperatures in 2006 (resulting in three deaths) and a destructive-but-not-fatal storm in the winter of 2005 mar its safety record.

Researchers have yet to conclude the most vulnerable area in the world, but Ethiopia and Bangladesh are certainly near the top of the disaster-friendly list.