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Natural disasters taking greater global toll, UN report

by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) Jan 18, 2008
Natural disasters such as floods, droughts, storms and heat waves affected more people globally in 2007 than 2006, despite taking fewer lives, according to a UN-linked report published Friday.

The report warned that such disasters are likely to occur more frequently, especially as China and India experience aggressive industrial growth.

"The increase in the number of floods is directly a function of development policies or lack of them," said Debarati Guha-Sapir, director of CRED -- the Belgian research centre that conducted the study.

On average, 95 million people were affected by floods worldwide between 2000 and 2006.

"China and India are definitely going to see an increase" in flooding, added Guha-Sapir.

Floods alone claimed 8,382 lives last year -- significantly more than the average from the previous seven years (5,407 deaths) -- indicated the report by the Catholic University of Louvain's Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), presented Friday at a press conference at United Nations headquarters in Geneva.

Natural disasters of all kinds (meteorological, but also earthquakes) were responsible for killing 16,517 people worldwide last year -- fewer than the 21,342 people killed by similar events in 2006.

However, the number of people hit in general by natural disasters grew from 135 million in 2006 to 200 million in 2007, according to the same annual study.

Of this global toll, the majority were affected by flooding, and half of those suffered from inundations that occurred in China in June and July, said Guha-Sapir.

Globally, the ten deadliest disasters were all climatic, except for the earthquake in August in Peru, with a death toll of 519.

Overwhelmingly the region most touched by climatic disasters was Asia -- subjected to eight of the world's ten worst catastrophes last year, the two others being the Peruvian earhtquake and a Hungarian heat wave that also killed around 500 people.

But overall, the United States experienced the greatest number of natural disasters (22), ahead of China (20) and India (18).

And a heat wave in Macedonia affected almost half the population to some degree, the most widespread incident in relation to population.

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Philippines: Japan lends 174.6 million dlrs for volcano relief
Manila (AFP) Jan 18, 2008
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