Asia suffers most natural disasters: UN
The Asia Pacific region has averaged about 215 major disasters during each of the past eight years, said Philippe Boulle, director of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).
Boulle, speaking on behalf of the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs Sergio Vieira de Mello, said the figure represented a disproportionately large share of natural hazards.
The conference, designed to enhance understanding of the scientific, economic and policy aspects of reducing the impact of disasters, was organised by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in conjunction with the Bangkok-based Asian Disaster Preparedness Center and the IDNDR.
More than 160 delegates from 24 Asian countries attended the meeting which runs through until Friday.
"Asia is affected by more natural disasters than any other region in the world," according to a statement by ESCAP.
It said six of the world's 10 biggest natural disasters last year occurred in the Asian region, claiming 27,000 lives and costing 38.2 billion dollars.
"Risk reduction will particularly become one of the major challenges for the Asian countries for the next millennium," said Michael Heyn, of the UN's System's Operational Activities for Development in Thailand.
Last year saw devasating floods in China and Bangladesh, huge forest fires in Indonesia and the consequent "haze" which swept across areas of that country and neighbouring states.
The conference was opened by Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Sukhumbhand Paribatra, who said globalisation had served to increase the impact of natural disasters in the region.
"With a more complex and inter-related global society, the scale of impact associated with natural hazards easily becomes magnified with consequences for many regions," he said.
Copyright (c) 1999 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 02/23/1999 12:11:00
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