Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Today’s disaster death tolls are falling

Thin Lei Win in AlertNet brings some hope for our disaster-saturated world: From the flood-ravaged provinces of Pakistan and tsunami battered shorelines of Japan to the storms, floods, landslides and quakes that struck Australia, New Zealand and Spain, disasters have hogged the headlines in the past 18 months.

Yet there is a sliver of good news – the risk of being killed by a cyclone or flood is lower today than it was 20 years ago, despite more people living on floodplains and storm-prone areas, according to the second United Nations (U.N.) report on reducing the risks of disasters, launched on Monday.

This trend, especially true for East Asia and the Pacific where risk is concentrated, is due to countries’ improved capacity in disaster response, preparedness and early warning systems, said the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2011, produced by the U.N.’s disaster management agency UNISDR.

“When the Pakistan floods happened last year, we ran a global risk model which is very, very solid, with parameters of the flooding and asked how many people the model would predict to be killed,” Andrew Maskrey, the report’s lead author, told AlertNet.

“The model predicted around 4 times more people killed than were reported killed,” he said of the 2010 floods – the worst in Pakistan’s recorded history – that killed more than 1,750 people. “These kinds of floods 20 years ago may have killed 15,000 or 20,000 people,” he said….

The US Army evacuated some Pakistani during the 2010 flooding. US Army photograph

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