Asia hit hardest by disasters in 2007

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New York, Jan 20 (UNI) Asia witnessed the highest number of disaster deaths last year with more than 7000 fatalties due to severe floods and other calamities in eight countries of the continent, including Bangladesh, India, North Korea and China, the UN said.

The annual figures released by United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) in collaboration with Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) said the year 2007 saw a marked increase in the number of floods compared with the average of last seven years.

However, deaths due to disasters in 2007 were lower than the yearly average of 2000 to 2006, a period which included at least five major disasters of unusual impact.

In 2007, about 16,517 dissaster deaths occurred compared to average 73931 people between 2000 and 2006, the UNISDR-CRED report said, adding that 399 disasters were recorded last year, which were close to 2000-2006 average of 394.

However, the number of people affected by disasters continued to increase and floods remain the main disaster that affects populations in the world, the report added.

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.

The report also highlighted the economic impact of disasters on developed countries such as Japan, the United States, and European countries.

Japan's earthquake in July last year cost 12.5 billion dollar, while Europe's Windstorm Kyrill, which killed 47 people, resulted in billion dollar in losses, half in Germany alone.

The two flood waves of June and July in the United Kingdom racked up 8 billion dollar altogether, while the huge wildfires which affected California during October in the United States resulted in losses of 2.5 billion dollar.

''These figures are a reminder of what could have been saved if we had invested more in disaster risk reduction measures,'' Salvano Brice O, Director of the UNISDR said.

Mr 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.

UNI XC SLD RS1423

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