How do the countries of Asia cope with and survive so many natural disasters?
The peoples of Asia survive and cope with so many natural disasters for the simple reason that they have no choice. The human capacity for survival has been proven innumerably throughout history, whether the age of the Black Death in 14th Century Europe or the massive undersea earthquake and resulting tsunami that devastated parts of Asia in 2004. People, like many species, are engineered to survive and move on. That may sound like an absurd over-simplification, but it's true. Asians have survived more natual disasters than any other region of the world -- a 2010 United Nations study concluded that countries in Asia and the Pacific "are more prone to natural disasters than those in other parts of the world, with people in the region four times more likely to be affected by natural catastrophe than those in Africa and 25 times more vulnerable than Europeans or North Americans" -- and tens of thousands of lives have been lost, but Asian civilizations perservere, as they have for thousands of years. [Source on Asia-Pacific region and natural disasters: www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=36563&Cr=disaster+%20risk&Cr1#.Ui3k32T5mK0]
Asia is particularly susceptible to earthquakes and cyclones, with flooding a near-constant threat. A product of tectonic activity in the Asia-Pacific region, and of tropical currents, there is rarely a period of time when there is not a natural disaster occurring in some part of that vast expanse of land and sea. From India and Bangladesh to Japan and the Philippines, earthquakes and enormous cyclones are a constant part of life.
One of the factors that cannot be ignored when discussing survival in the Asia-Pacific region is the scale of poverty and disease, which contribute to high death tolls. While Asian societies have survived natural disasters, it is not without considerably more loss of life than should be the case but for many of these countries' inability to better prepare. As the aforementioned United Nations study pointed out, despite the propensity for natural disasters, Asian countries are remarkably poorly prepared. To quote again from the UN report, Asia "lacked comprehensive natural disasters assessment capacity . . . [W]hile it (Asia) generated one quarter of the world's gross domestic product (GDP), it accounted for 85 percent of deaths, and 42 percent of global economic losses due to natural disasters."
There is a reason the United States and other developed countries habitually respond to natural disasters in Asia, whether the 2004 tsnunami that destroyed parts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and various smaller islands, or the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated part of northern Japan (while precipatitating a nuclear reactor crisis). Apart from the moral imperative of coming to the aid of those affected by natural disasters, most of Asia is unable to respond in a rapid and effective way, and U.S. assistance is required. Asian governments have proven ill-equipped to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. It was not missed by many in Japan that the Japanese government was slower to respond to the 2011 crisis than the Yakuza, Japan's version of major organized crime, which stepped in with financial assistance ahead of the government. [It should be pointed out that the U.S. Government's response to Hurricane Katrina was widely criticized, so clearly any criticisms of Asia has to be kept in context.]