UN report sees Asia Pacific as world's most disaster prone region

UN report sees Asia Pacific as world
# 28 October 2015 02:17 (UTC +04:00)

"Asia (has) particularly high vulnerability to multiple hazards not least because of the ring of fire -- and the volcanic and earthquake activity along it -- but also because of the path of tropical typhoons," said David O'Connor, chief of the policy and analysis branch of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), at the launch of Disasters Without Borders the 2015 Asia Pacific Disaster Report.

Ninety percent of the world's seismic activity originates in the ring of fire, a region in the basin of the Pacific Ocean, said O'Connor.

Other disasters affecting the region include floods, tropical storms and droughts, which O'Connor described as a silent killer.

He said China was also vulnerable to both earthquakes and tropical storms.

"China ...has suffered both from tropical storms in recent years but also from earthquakes that have devastated large cities and parts of China," he said.


Many of the disasters in the Asia Pacifc region are cross boundary in nature and therefore need a regional response, said O'Connor.

"Regional cooperation will be particularly important in addressing many of the disasters faced by the Asia Pacific region because many of them are in fact trans-boundary in nature," he said.

"You have major river systems in the region where flooding spills over borders, earthquakes clearly can be trans-boundary in their impacts, as with the earthquake that caused the huge tsunami in Asia about a decade ago," said O'Connor.

While progress has been made in the area of disaster risk reduction since the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, there is still room for improvement, he said.

"There was a major effort to install early warning systems in the region (including) a number of sea level gauges and tsunameters (equipment used to detect tsunamis)," said O'Connor.

But he said that after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013 it became apparent that more work need to be done to ensure that warning messages make it all the way to people in danger.

"There are critical gaps remaining in getting the information in a timely fashion to the last mile to the people on the ground, to the communities that are most exposed and most effected," said O'Connor.

The Philippines has increased significantly the number of people it evacuates before tropical storms, with 750,000 people evacuated before a recent storm compared with just 125,000 before Haiyan, said O'Connor.

According to him, disaster risk reduction has been proven to be an effective way to tackle disasters but that addressing climate change is now likely the most important way to reduce the risk of disasters.

"Urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts is likely to be one of the most important disaster risk reduction measures that the international community can take," he said.

"Disaster risk will be considerably exacerbated in the region and in the world as a whole in coming decades by climate change," said O'Connor, adding "we're already seeing that in the mega storms that have hit countries like the Philippines."