News: A Matter of Scale
Natural disasters are a funny thing. In one sense, nature is brutally egalitarian; whether you're a prince or a pauper, a tornado will kill you just as dead. But industrialized, developed nations will always weather these conditions with minimum loss of life better than poorer countries (Hurricane Katrina being the unhappy exception to the rule - even then, it hit one of the poorest states in terms of per capita income).
Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar pretty hard, but even an up-and-coming industrial power like China can still be struck hard by disaster. When was the last time 10,000 people were killed in an earthquake in the U.S.?
In terms of proportional loss of life, I suppose comparisons fail. The population of China is 1.3 billion - four times that of the U.S. Hundreds of people can die in floods or landslides and it's not counted as a major disaster there. I think it's the same logic that, as Tam points out, allowed millions of Russian troops to be thrown into the meat grinder of the Eastern Front in WWII. Supply and demand - when you have a lot of human beings, life is cheap. It's distressing to think basic economics applies to something as precious as a person, but there it is.