Canadian Consulting Engineer

UN urges countries to improve disaster planning

In the wake of the wave of natural disasters recently, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Anan is urging countries to step...

October 21, 2005   Canadian Consulting Engineer

In the wake of the wave of natural disasters recently, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Anan is urging countries to step up their plans for disaster planning. He also sees certain connections between development and environmental disasters.
“Urban and agricultural frontier expansion have transformed surrounding environments in ways that generate new hazard patterns,” Annan said in a press release. “The connection between disasters and inappropriate development models is well documented.”
Natural disasters continue to wrack the world this year. Just this autumn, there has been an earthquake in Kashmir, killing an estimated 40,000, flooding and huge mudslides in Central America and Mexico that killed over 100 people after Hurricane Stan, and Hurricane Katrina and Rita in the U.S. Gulf States that left up to 900,000 homeless.
Annan noted that also last year disasters as a result of flooding affected more than 132 million people in 2004, with extreme flooding in Bangladesh, hurricanes in the Caribbean and flash floods in the Philippines and Guyana that destroyed tens of thousands of homes. As well, heavy snowfalls in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan led to hundreds of deaths. Droughts affected more than 20 million people worldwide.
Annan wonders why the world responds generously to large-scale disasters, such as the South Asian tsunami, but ignores small-scale disasters. He noted that 82 per cent of the $1.26 billion needed for recover in the tsunami was provided by donors, but only 5.3 per cent of the $7.5 million needed for drought victims in Djibouti was provided.
According to the WorldWatch Institute, in the 1980s the average annual economic loss from weather-related disasters was $26 billion. In 2004, the number rose to $104 billion. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina alone is expected to cost $100-200 billion in economic losses.
Science magazine published a report last month that suggests hurricanes are getting stronger. The number of Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the past 35 years, it said.


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