20 drown in boat accident in eastern Afghanistan: provincial official

UN official: Better warning, planning to reduce disaster deaths despite worsening climate

As climate change makes disasters such as cyclones, floods and droughts more intense, more frequent and affecting more places, fewer people die from these disasters globally thanks to better warning, planning and resilience, a senior Nations official said United.
The world hasn’t really noticed how the kind of storms that once killed tens or hundreds of thousands of people now claim only a handful of lives, he told The Associated Press. But, she added, much more needs to be done to prevent these disasters from pushing people into absolute poverty.
“Fewer people die from natural disasters and if you look at the percentage of the total population, it is even fewer,” Kishore said in his first interview since taking office in mid-May. “We often take for granted the progress we have made.”
“Twenty years ago there was no early warning system for tsunamis, except for a small part of the world. Now the whole world is covered by a tsunami warning system” after the 2004 tsunami that killed about 230,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand, Kishore said.
People are getting better warnings about tropical cyclones — also called hurricanes and typhoons — so now the chances of dying in a tropical cyclone in a place like the Philippines are about a third of what they were 20 years ago, Kishore said.
As the former disaster chief for India, Kishore highlights how his country has reduced deaths through better warnings and community preparedness, such as hospitals being ready for a surge in births during a cyclone. In 1999, a supercyclone hit eastern India, killing nearly 10,000 people. Then a storm of nearly similar size hit in 2013, but killed only a few dozen people. Last year, under Kishore’s watch, Cyclone Biparjoy killed fewer than 10 people.
The same goes for flood victims, Kishore said.
The data bears out Kishore, said disaster epidemiologist Debarati Guha-Sapir of the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels, which has created a global disaster database. Her database – which, as she acknowledges, has some missing pieces – shows that global deaths from storm events have fallen from a 10-year average of 24 in 2008 to a 10-year average of about 8 in 2021. Flood deaths have gone from ten-year averages from nearly 72 to about 31, his data indicates.
While there are fewer deaths globally from natural disasters, there are still pockets in poorer countries, especially in Africa, where deaths are getting worse or at least staying the same, Guha-Sapir said. It’s very similar to public health efforts to eradicate measles, which have succeeded in most places, but the areas least able to cope with it are not improving, she said.
India and Bangladesh are poster nations for better dealing with disasters and preventing deaths, especially from cyclones, Guha-Sapir said. In 1970, a cyclone killed more than 300,000 people in Bangladesh in one of the biggest natural disasters of the 20th century and now “Bangladesh has done a fantastic job of disaster risk reduction for years and years and years,” she said .
Highlighting victories is important, Guha-Sapir said: “Sadness and doom will never take us anywhere.”
While countries like India and Bangladesh have created warning systems, strengthened buildings like hospitals, and know what to do to prepare for and then respond to disasters, it’s also largely just because these countries are becoming richer and more educated and so they can better manage disasters and protect themselves, Guha-Sapir said. The poorest countries and people cannot do this.
“Fewer people are dying, but it’s not because climate change isn’t happening,” Kishore said. “This despite climate change. And this is because we have invested in resilience, invested in early warning systems.”
Kishore said climate change is making his job more difficult, but he said he doesn’t feel like Sisyphus, the mythical man pushing a giant boulder up a hill.
“Risks are occurring more intensely, more frequently, and (in) new geographic areas,” Kishore said, saying that places like Brazil, which previously didn’t worry too much about floods, are now becoming devastated. The same goes for extreme heat, which he said used to be a problem for only a few countries, but has now gone global, pointing to nearly 60,000 heatwave deaths in Europe in 2022.
India, where temperatures hover near 50 degrees Celsius, has reduced heat-related deaths with specific regional plans, Kishore said.
“However, with the new extreme temperatures we are seeing, every country must redouble their efforts to save lives,” he said. And that means looking at the built environment of cities, he added.
Reducing deaths is only part of the battle to reduce risks, Kishore said.
“We are doing a better job of saving lives but not livelihoods,” Kishore said.
While fewer people are dying, “look at the people who are losing their homes, the people who are losing their businesses, a small farmer who runs a poultry farm,” Kishore said. When they are flooded or hit by a storm, they may survive but they have nothing, no seeds, no fishing boats.
“We’re not doing as well as we should on this,” Kishore said. “We cannot accept losses occurring. Of course they will occur, but they could be minimized by an order of magnitude.”

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