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US offers disaster help to Asia-Pacific
by Staff Writers
Honolulu, Hawaii (AFP) Nov 11, 2011

The United States on Friday announced a new Internet platform to fight disasters across the Asia-Pacific region as it urged greater investment and cooperation to save lives and costs.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led a session of foreign ministers of the 21-member APEC bloc devoted to disaster resilience after a year of tragedy including earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand and floods in Southeast Asia.

Clinton said the US Agency for International Development and the US Chamber of Commerce, the country's largest business lobby, were together launching the "Pacific Rim Coordination Center" to provide disaster resources online.

While details of the initiative were vague, Clinton said that the Internet platform would provide open data along with social media tools so that both officials and ordinary citizens in the region can better cope with disasters.

"For example, it creates real-time maps that show the progression of floods, storms, and earthquakes, so people can move to safety and governments and businesses know where help is needed," she said.

Clinton said that economic losses from disasters in the Asia-Pacific region will top $200 billion in 2011 and noted that the figure was twice the gross domestic product of Vietnam.

"While we cannot stop all earthquakes or floods from occurring, we can become more resilient, so that when they strike, they cause less harm.

"The business case is clear: on average, large businesses without strong risk management programs suffer losses that are seven times as great as businesses with these programs," she said.

"As we look for smart, high-impact ways to strengthen our regional economy and move toward a more prosperous future, investing in disaster resilience stands out."

The talks come a day ahead of the full summit of APEC, or the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which will include President Barack Obama.

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