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UN to urge boost to national disaster plans

by Staff Writers
Geneva April 11, 2011
The United Nations will press political and business leaders to bolster preparations for major disasters during a conference in Geneva next month, a senior UN official said on Monday. The Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction conference from May 10 to 13 follows a year marked by huge natural disasters. They have included the earthquake in Haiti, which killed over 220,000 people, in Chile, huge floods in Pakistan that destroyed 1.7 million homes, as well as the 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami in Japan last month that ravaged part of the northeast. Those events were "tragic but good lessons," to encourage countries to plan for disasters, said Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Reduction. "What we really hope is to build political commitments... This is a priority because if we don't do that we create huge losses," that could undermine the development of poor countries, create social instability and even have as political impact, she added. Wahlstrom also underlined the degree of preparation in Australia for natural disasters, after devastating floods in Queensland in January, as well as in Japan, which has frequently been highlighted by the UN's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction as a shining example. "The prevention system worked even though it was a mega earthquake," she told journalists. "Lives were saved, 27,000 people died which is tragic and too much but I can assure that there was the potential for many more to be killed if the Japanese were not so well trained and disciplined," she added. earlier related report
Clinton to visit Japan in show of support
Washington (AFP) April 11, 2011 - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Japan in a show of support for the US ally as it recovers from a devastating earthquake, the State Department announced Monday.

Clinton will travel to Tokyo on Sunday, after stops in South Korea and in Germany where she is attending a NATO conference, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Clinton's trip aims to "show the United States' support for the people of Japan and to highlight our long-standing commitment to the alliance," Toner said in a statement.

She will hold talks with Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other senior Japanese officials, Toner said.

The announcement comes on the one-month anniversary of Japan's worst disaster since World War II, which killed at least 13,000 people and left another 14,000 missing in a massive earthquake and debris-laden tsunami.

The United States, whose military presence in Japan has sometimes been controversial, deployed some 15,000 troops to assist in relief.

Senior US officials were also expected to participate in a memorial service later Monday at the Washington National Cathedral.

Clinton will take part in a NATO conference on Thursday and Friday in Berlin, where she will hold talks on alliance-backed military operations in Libya and Afghanistan, the State Department said.

She will head Saturday to South Korea for talks with President Lee Myung-Bak "as part of our ongoing efforts to strengthen the alliance and to discuss cooperation on regional issues," Toner said.

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Rikuzentakata, Japan (AFP) April 11, 2011
A day after Rikuzentakata mayor Futoshi Toba cremated his wife, he was back at his desk in the devastated city, leading the clean-up after Japan's worst natural disaster in living memory. When the 9.0-magnitude undersea earthquake hit exactly one month ago, Toba faced an agonising choice - to leave his post and rush home to save his wife from the impending tsunami, or stay and do what he co ... read more

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