Opinion

2011 record year for the cost of disasters

NEW YORK, USA – The economic cost of disasters in 2011 is the highest in history, 380 billion USD, mainly because of the earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, reported an official of UN on Monday.

Margareta Wahlstrom, Special Representative of Secretary General of the UN for reducing disaster risk, said the cost of disasters in 2011 was 60 percent higher than the previous record set in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the southern United States.

In addition to earthquakes, major floods in Thailand and other countries have caused extensive damage, said Ms. Wahlstrom.

This is an upward trend involving increasing economic losses, according to Ms. Wahlstrom.

Despite rising costs associated with natural disasters, deaths related to these events decreases because the countries have improved warning systems and preparedness measures.

But the economic impact of disasters has become a major threat to many countries, said Ms. Wahlstrom.

“We say today that 50 percent of the world population is exposed to risks of disasters because these people live in highly vulnerable areas,” she said.

Japan is the country most economically vulnerable to disasters and its population is the second most exposed to disasters in the world, said Ms. Wahlstrom.

It commended Japan for its efforts in disaster preparedness, while stressing that lessons should be learned from the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.

Most buildings have withstood the shock, but the subsequent tsunami flooded the northeast of the country, destroying entire towns and badly damaging the Fukushima nuclear power plant, causing the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

According to Ms. Wahlstrom, the risk of disasters is increasing worldwide due to climate change, depletion of natural resources, misuse of land and worsening environmental problems.

For example, in 2050, the world will need 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water, resources that are already endangered and can be triggers for disasters, she said.

Ms. Wahlstrom said that any development in a country should include measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change and natural disasters.

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