Thursday, December 25, 2008

Disasters warning for Asia-Pacific

Sydney Morning Herald: Australia's neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region face an era of "mega-disasters" affecting hundreds of thousands of people as urbanisation, climate change and food shortages amplify the impact of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and cyclones in coming years, scientific research has shown.

The research - which has prompted the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to establish a joint disaster training and research centre - identifies Indonesia, the Philippines and China as the countries most likely to experience large-scale disasters. Scientists at Geosience Australia analysed the incidence of hazards such as earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis and volcanoes throughout the region and then estimated the numbers of people who would be killed or injured or lose their homes or essential services.

This risk assessment found that so-called mega-cities in the Himalayan belt, China, Indonesia and the Philippines were prime candidates for earthquakes that could cause more than a million deaths. Hundreds of thousands could be seriously affected by volcanoes erupting on average once a decade in Indonesia and once every few decades in the Philippines.

...Dr Simpson said population growth was the main reason the Asia-Pacific was highly vulnerable. "As populations grow, people are beginning to settle on areas they wouldn't have historically - steep slopes that might be vulnerable to landslides or coastal areas near large river mouths which are likely to flood every couple of years."

The Sundarbans a few months after Cyclone Sidr, shot by "joiseyshowaa," Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License

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