Asia especially Bangladesh hit hardest by disasters in 2007
The year 2007 saw a marked increase in the number of floods compared with the average of last seven years, and Asia was the continent hit hardest by disasters, said United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and its collaborating centres.
According to the yearly figures released at a press conference in Geneva on Friday evening by the Belgian WHO collaborating Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), and co-organised by UNISDR, eight out of the 10 countries with the highest disaster deaths of 2007 were in Asia with 4234 killed in Bangladesh by cyclone Sidr in last November, and more than 3000 fatalities from severe floods in Bangladesh, India, North Korea and China.
Despite the record number of deaths in Asia, deaths due to disasters in 2007 were lower than the yearly average of 2000-2006, a period which included at least five major disasters of unusual impact, said the UNISDR/CRED report adding that in 2007, some 16517 people were killed compared to average 73931 people between 2000 and 2006.
In this regard, UNISDR-CRED experts also commended the efforts of Bangladesh especially its preparedness and disaster management as well as coping capacities in the face of ever increasing number of floods and other disasters.
However, the number of people affected by disasters continued to increase and floods remain the main disaster that affects populations in the world, said the report received here yesterday.
More than 164 million people were affected by floods in 2007 out of the 197 million affected by disasters and half of them were caused by the June-July floods in China, the report pointed out.
“Current trends are consistent with the predictions of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change," says Prof Debarati Guha-Sapir, director of CRED.
Regarding disaster occurrence, 399 disasters were recorded last year, which were close to 2000-2006 average of 394.
Another key point highlighted by the CRED report is the high economic impact that disasters are having on developed countries such as Japan, the United States, and European countries.
In a big jump on 2006, disaster losses cost US$ 62.5 billion in 2007.
Japan's earthquake in last July cost US$ 12.5 billion, Europe's Windstorm Kyrill, which killed 47 people, resulted in US$ 10 billion in losses, half in Germany alone.
The two flood waves of June and July in the United Kingdom racked up US$ 8 billion altogether, while the huge wildfires which affected California during October in the United States resulted in losses of US$ 2.5 billion.
“These figures are a reminder of what could have been saved if we had invested more in disaster risk reduction measures,” says Salvano Brice o, Director of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.
Brice o also underlined that despite a lower dollar cost of disasters in poorer areas, the long-term social cost in those cases can be far higher.
“Lower insurance and asset losses during disasters that mainly affected poor people, simply show that those people have no safety nets. Low-income people are still struggling in New Orleans after Katrina and in Indian Ocean countries after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. We can and must do more to increase the resilience of people who are most vulnerable to disasters,” he said.
In terms of other overall trends, “monitoring the associations between weather-related disasters and disease transmission will be one of the most significant challenges for the next decade,” says Prof Guha-Sapir.