France's Hollande visits typhoon-hit Philippine town

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Guiuan, Feb 27: French President Francois Hollande on Friday visited a remote Philippine town devastated by one of the world's strongest typhoons, seeking to sound a global alarm on climate change ahead of a crucial UN summit.

Hollande is on a two-day trip to the Southeast Asian archipelago, regarded as a frontline state in the struggle against global warming, as part of his campaign to build diplomatic momentum ahead of the Paris summit in December.

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The French President launched an appeal with Philippine President Benigno Aquino in Manila for world leaders meeting in Paris to secure a "universal, equitable and ambitious climate deal" that would avert catastrophic global warming. Their appeal offered a show of unity they said could serve as a model for rich and poor nations, whose divisions led to a similar effort at a UN summit in Copenhagen in 2009 ending in disarray.

"We have a duty to act together and that's why I came here to the Philippines, to launch an appeal, to seal an alliance," Hollande said.

Hollande then flew to Guiuan, a small coastal town in the far eastern Philippines of about 50,000 people that is still trying to recover from Super Typhoon Haiyan that hit 15 months ago.

Guiuan was among the first towns hit when Super Typhoon Haiyan roared in off the Pacific Ocean with winds of 315 kilometres (195 miles) an hour, the strongest gales ever recorded on land.

Haiyan then swept across already deeply impoverished farming and fishing communities of the central Philippines, claiming more than 7,350 lives. Rebuilding those communities is expected to take many years and cost billions of dollars.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of typhoon survivors will continue to live in danger zones along the coast and remain extremely vulnerable to future storms.

The Philippines endures about 20 major storms or typhoons every year but scientists say they are getting stronger and more unpredictable because of climate change.

In their joint appeal, Hollande and Aquino highlighted that people in the Philippines had "endured an unprecedented series of extreme weather events in the last few years".

"We are reminded that while the developing countries have contributed least to climate change, they are the ones that suffer the most from climate change impacts," the appeal stated.

PTI

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