Greater global protection needed against ‘predictable’ disasters, says UN agency

2 November 2007 – The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) today called on governments to better protect people against more “predictable” natural hazards, especially flooding, to reduce the risk and vulnerability of local populations.

After a week in which floods have brought death and destruction to the Caribbean region and to Mexico, the Director of the UN secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, Salvano Briceño, said the world needed to find better ways to reduce the impact of these recurrent disasters.

“There are many inexpensive measures that can be systematically adopted in disaster-prone countries to reduce the impact of hazards,” he said in a statement issued in Geneva, the headquarters of ISDR.

“Risk assessments, early warning systems, evacuation plans, education and land use planning are a few of the many cost effective and reliable non-structural ways to avoid floods becoming disasters,” he said, pointing out that many measures are within the financial means of most communities.

Floods this year have already caused four times as much devastation as last year, affecting 140 million people. This week alone Tropical Storm Noël has killed at least 100 people across the Caribbean region while heavy rains have brought widespread inundations to Tabasco state in Mexico.

ISDR has stressed that floods are among the most predictable, expected and announced natural hazards, and noted that the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report predicted that more frequent and intense tropical cyclones and hurricanes will occur because of climate change, bringing more flooding with them.

Around the world poor people are often most at risk because they do not have the means to adapt their living conditions either before or after floods, and have to live in high-risk areas such as floodplains, ravines and slopes, which are more prone to floods and landslides.

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