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. Asia Vulnerable To New Orleans-Style Tragedy

Some 89 percent of the people affected by natural disasters between 1975 and 2003 were from Asia, the world's biggest continent, compared with 7.1 percent in Africa and 2.9 percent in the Americas, according to the Kobe center.

Kobe, Japan (AFP) Sep 07, 2005
Hurricane Katrina should be a wake-up call that a similar cyclone or typhoon could strike Asia, which is home to nearly 90 percent of the world's natural disasters and has major vulnerabilities, a researcher said Wednesday.

Some 30 typhoons build annually in the Pacific, the latest one drenching stretches of Japan this week, and 25 to 30 cyclones are whipped up each year in the Indian Ocean.

"The devastation of Hurricane Katrina is a lesson to be learned for Asia, which suffers from more natural disasters than any other region," said Masaru Arakida, senior researcher at the Asian Disaster Reduction Center, which was set up in Kobe, Japan following its major 1995 earthquake.

"It would be no surprise if a cyclone or typhoon of a similar scale to Hurricane Katrina hits Asia and triggers a similar tragedy sometime in the future," Arakida told AFP.

Asia has stepped up disaster prevention measures since December's massive tsunami catastrophe, with Indian Ocean nations installing warning systems for the seismic waves and teaching survival methods.

But Arakida said much of the continent did not have the infrastructure in place to prevent a much more common disaster.

He said Asia should learn from the example of New Orleans and assess whether cities have enough protection to hold off the waters.

Floods each year swamp swathes of Asia's developing countries, with 400 killed this summer when parts of Mumbai was submerged.

"There is much room for improvement in anti-disaster measures in China, while the Philippines, prone to various kinds of natural disasters, should also boost prevention measures further," Arakida said.

But he said there were also risks for rich cities such as Tokyo, which is partly under sea level but has entrusted nature for protection as peninsulas separate Tokyo Bay from the Pacific Ocean.

"Even Tokyo can easily fall victim," he warned. "We cannot deny possibilities that tens of thousands of people could be killed or injured if a strong typhoon hits the very areas below sea level in the capital."

Some 89 percent of the people affected by natural disasters between 1975 and 2003 were from Asia, the world's biggest continent, compared with 7.1 percent in Africa and 2.9 percent in the Americas, according to the Kobe center.

Of the Asian victims, 70 percent suffered the powerful winds and flooding from typhoons, cyclones or seasonal monsoons in a continent also prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.

In economic terms, Asia lost 374 billion dollars from disasters between 1991 and 2000, which does not include the catastrophic effect of last year's tsunamis.

Floods have impacts on all 25 member countries in Asia except Singapore, the center said, with China suffering enormous damage.

In 1931, China suffered what is considered the deadliest natural disaster of the 20th century, the Yellow River floods that killed some 3.7 million people from drowning, disease and hunger. Another flood in China in 1959 killed two million people.

More recently, up to 500,000 people died when a cyclone hit Bangladesh in 1970.

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US Has Accepted One Billion Dollars In International Aid: Official
Washington (AFP) Sep 07, 2005
The United States has accepted one billion dollars in cash and material goods from 45 countries and is weighing other offers of aid for Hurricane Katrina victims, a State Department official said Wednesday.

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