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More spending needed ahead of disasters: UN

by Staff Writers
Hanoi (AFP) May 3, 2011
The earthquake and tsunami in Japan capped a series of tragic and costly global catastrophes which show that more money must be spent on risk reduction, a UN disaster official said Tuesday.

"People actually lose lives less than they did 30 years ago because of better preparedness," said Margareta Wahlstrom, the United Nations Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction.

"But the economic losses are just increasing every year because of the destruction."

Japan's government has estimated that direct damage from last month's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami could reach around $300 billion.

The disaster left nearly 26,000 people dead or missing and crippled a nuclear power plant, which has been releasing radioactive materials into the environment.

In an interview with AFP Wahlstrom called Japan's estimated losses an "unimaginable amount", which comes after an unusual series of other calamities in the world.

"We had two earthquakes in New Zealand. We had floods and a typhoon in Australia. It's been a bad 16 or 18 months, starting from the Haiti earthquake until today," she said, also citing last year's floods in Pakistan.

"It's been really some of the largest disaster events that we have seen in generations," she said, adding they should serve as a reminder that such events must be planned for.

"Otherwise the cost and the losses are not tolerable. They have far too serious an impact on countries' economies."

The Haitian earthquake killed more than 200,000 people while the floods in Pakistan, that country's worst-ever disaster, left more than 73,000 dead.

A February quake in New Zealand's city of Christchurch killed an estimated 182 people and left the country with a reconstruction bill of NZ$15 billion ($11.1 billion).

"It's very clear that the risk accumulates quicker than economic wealth, even in the countries that grow very quickly, because we are building such complicated societies," she said.

"If something happens it has such a wide-ranging impact," Wahlstrom added, speaking on the sidelines of the Asian Development Bank's annual meetings in Vietnam.

She said the question of how much a country or a business was prepared to pay for risk mitigation "is an important one which I think will be... looked at now in a different perspective than before the Japanese earthquake."

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Hannover Re says quake claims cut outlook
Frankfurt (AFP) May 3, 2011
The German reinsurance group Hannover Re cut its 2011 profit outlook on Tuesday because of exceptional costs from first-quarter catastrophes, notably in Japan. The group now forecasts a 2011 net profit of about 500 million euros ($740 million), a statement said, sharply lower than its previous estimate of 650 million euros. In the first quarter of the year, earnings were hit by major dis ... read more

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