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. Disasters: Bangladesh, NKorea most hit in 2007

In 2007, the top five countries that suffered most from extreme events were Bangladesh, North Korea, Nicaragua, Oman and Pakistan. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Poznan, Poland (AFP) Dec 4, 2008
Bangladesh, North Korea and Nicaragua suffered most from natural disasters in 2007, according to a barometer published on Thursday at the UN climate talks in Poznan.

The Global Climate Risk Index looks at the cost of natural disasters in the light of a country's economy and population in order to get a clear view of its vulnerability.

In absolute terms, extreme weather events inflict a higher bill when they hit rich countries, explained Sven Harmeling of Germanwatch, a German group that compiled the barometer.

This, for instance, was the case with Hurricane Katrina, which inflicted costs of 215 billion dollars when it slammed into the US Gulf Coast in 2005, making it the most expensive storm in history.

But, in relation to the size of a nation's economy, developing countries are hit much harder, Hameling said.

In 2007, the top five countries that suffered most from extreme events were Bangladesh, North Korea, Nicaragua, Oman and Pakistan.

Oman, which had ranked a distant 116th on the 2006 index, featured high in the 2007 lineup because of Cyclone Gonu, an exceptional tropical storm that according to preliminary official estimates inflicted damages of around 3.9 billion dollars.

Over a decade, from 1998-2007, the five worst-hit countries were Honduras, Bangladesh, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, Germanwatch estimated.

Calculations are based on a basket of factors.

One-quarter of the weighting is derived from the death toll from a disaster; one-quarter on deaths per population; one-sixth on absolute economic losses; and two-sixths on losses as a proportion to GDP.

The data is derived from a long-term database compiled by the German reinsurance giant Munich Re.

Sudden, destructive weather events -- storms, floods and heatwaves -- are included in the estimates, but not droughts or sea-level rise, which are longer-term events and far harder to evaluate, said Harmeling.

"This index reveals that in most cases, developing countries are relatively more affected by extreme events than wealthy countries if you look in economic terms in relation to a country's GDP, and also in terms of the death toll in relation to the population," Harmeling told AFP.

Harmeling said that the index chiefly aimed to give a pointer about a country's vulnerability to climate change.

Single weather events cannot by themselves be attributed to the effects of global warming, which is a long-term, complex affair, he said.

On the other hand, scientists in the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have warned that climate change this year is likely to make extreme weather events more frequent and possibly more intense too.

"We cannot say that such and such an event in Bangladesh this year is a consequence of climate change. What we can say is that assuming that extreme weather events will occur more often under climate change, it points to a future risk for countries due to climate change," said Harmeling.

The presentation was made on the sidelines of the December 1-12 meeting of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which aims at advancing towards a new pact to reduce carbon emissions and channelling help to exposed countries.

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Indonesian company says settlement reached with mud volcano victims
Jakarta (AFP) Dec 4, 2008
Indonesian energy company Lapindo said Thursday it had reached a compensation settlement with thousands of victims of a mud volcano which erupted from one of its gas wells.

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