Friday, December 28, 2007

Latin America hit by record number of disasters, says UN

Guardian (UK): The UN office that sends experts around the world to help governments deal with natural disasters attended to more such events than ever before in Latin America in 2007, a fact it at least partially blames on climate change.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement that a record nine missions were dispatched to the region this year. This was part of a total of 14 sent around the globe, itself a higher than usual number. "Seventy percent of the total were in response to hurricanes and floods, possibly a glimpse of the shape of things to come, given the reality of climate change," it said.

Rains left most of Mexico's Tabasco state under water for weeks, including large parts of the city of Villahermosa. Tropical storm Noel triggered flash floods in the Dominican Republic that killed dozens, while Honduras faced the category-five hurricane Felix. Uruguay suffered its worst flooding in 50 years and hundreds of thousands of Bolivians were inundated and crops ruined early in the year. A UN disaster team sent to the region went to help with the relief effort following an 8.0-magnitude earthquake along the Peruvian coast.

Aside from the missions to Latin America, the UN also sent teams to Madagascar, Pakistan and Ghana in response to floods, to the Solomon Islands after an earthquake and tsunami, and to Laos to help with disaster preparedness efforts.

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