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New UN disaster official lauds PH, other nations for fewer calamity deaths

/ 12:05 AM February 15, 2016

THE NEW head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has lauded the Philippines and neighboring China, Japan and the small Pacific island states for doing a good job in reducing the death toll from storms through early warning systems and timely evacuations.

Robert Glasser, who also replaced Margareta Wahlstrom as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative for disaster risk reduction, Sunday reported that over 3.83 million Filipinos were affected by calamities, mostly typhoons, that left about $1.9 billion in economic damage.

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The Asia Pacific region “bore the brunt of 90 typhoons reported last year, which included 48 cyclone-strength storms,” he said.

In a statement, a copy of which was e-mailed to the Inquirer, Glasser said the fatalities due to storms hit 996 in 2015, compared to 17,778 from 2005 to 2014.

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Citing data from the Belgium-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), he said the death toll from 346 major global disasters last year reached 22,773, including 8,831 who perished in the Nepal earthquake.

Hottest year

Meanwhile, a total of 3,275 people died in the heat wave that hit France between June and August, while 2.248 people were killed in India due also to the extreme heat.

Glasser said 2015 was the “hottest year on record,” with weather and climate-related disasters dominating trends linked to natural hazards.

“The main message from this trends analysis is that reducing greenhouse gases and adapting to climate change are vital for countries seeking to reduce disaster risks now and in the future,” he said.

“The Nepal quake has confirmed yet again that earthquakes are the most deadly natural hazard category and underlines the importance of ensuring compliance with building codes,” the chief of the Geneva-based UNISDR said.

“It is buildings which kill people in seismic zones as we saw again last week in Taiwan,” he said.

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Striking paradigm shifts

Rescuers have reportedly pulled out 113 dead a week since a 6.4-magnitude quake struck the Taiwanese city of Tainan, leaving only four missing in the rubble of a collapsed 17-story residential complex. A total of 327 people in the building survived.

Earlier, Warhlstrom cited the Philippines as one of the most disaster-prone countries in Asia that had made “striking paradigm shifts” in disaster risk reduction and management.

Manila, she said, was “developing more sophisticated methods of gauging the impact of typhoons,” in the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) which devastated Eastern Visayas in November 2013.

“Better disaster preparedness and more efficient response systems are now in place across much of the region, including the Philippines, India, Pakistan and Indonesia,” she said.

She stressed the need to “reduce existing levels of risk and avoid creating new ones by ensuring that public and private investments are risk-informed and do not increase the exposure of people and economic assets to natural hazards on flood plains, vulnerable low-lying coastlines and other locations not suited for human settlement.”

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TAGS: Features, Global Nation, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
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