UN urges preparedness for more frequent disasters

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UNITED NATIONS, Oct 10 (Reuters) Amid a dramatic increase in climate-related disasters, international relief agencies are calling on countries to increase their commitment to disaster risk reduction, the United Nations said.

''Climate change is already driving an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves, floods, droughts and tropical cyclones. We believe that more needs to be done to contain these natural disasters at the outset,'' said UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes.

''Disaster risk reduction is a key part of the global response to climate change.'' During this year alone the United Nations has launched 13 appeals, breaking the previous record of 10 appeals in a single year, and 12 of those came in response to climate-related disasters, the world body said yesterday.

More than 250 million people a year are now affected by so-called natural catastrophes, a third more than a decade ago, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

In 2006, the Red Cross and Red Crescent responded to 482 disasters, up from 278 in 2004. During that period, the number of floods jumped from 54 to 121. Already in 2007, the federation has responded to more than 100 floods, it said.

UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, who has put climate change high on his agenda since taking the helm of the world body at the beginning of this year, also called on countries to improve their early warning systems and increase educational outreach to mitigate the damage of disasters.

''The need to engage fully in disaster risk reduction has never been more pressing,'' Ban said. ''It is about making communities and individuals aware of their risk to natural hazards and how they can reduce their vulnerability.

Reuters TB VP0458

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