India, China 'most affected by weather-related disasters': United Nations

United Nations: India and China are among the countries most affected by weather-related disasters with the two nations accounting for more than three billion disaster-affected people between 1995 and 2015, a new UN report has said ahead of the crucial Paris climate conference.

The report titled 'The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction' said the five countries hit by the highest number of disasters are the US, China, India, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

"Asian population giants, China and India, dominate the league table of countries most affected by weather-related disasters. Together these two nations account for more than 3 billion disaster-affected people between 1995 and 2015.

That is 75 per cent of the global total of 4.1 billion people," the report said. In India, 805 million people were affected by weather-related disasters during the 1995-2015 period, second only after China where 2,274 million were people affected. India was hit by 288 disasters over the last 20 years, third only after the US (472) and China (441).

The Philippines (274) and Indonesia (163) round of the five nations hit by the highest number of disasters. The report, however, said in recent years, national preparedness and more efficient responses to disasters have significantly reduced the numbers of people dying from weather-related hazards in some countries.

India, China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Thailand and Myanmar have each made major commitments to reduce disaster losses by acting on the priorities of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA). For India, a key trigger was the 1999 cyclone which claimed around 10,000 lives in Odisha as casualties in two recent major cyclones were minimal, the report said.

The report, which comes ahead of the Paris climate conference starting November 30, further shows that over the last 20 years, 90 per cent of major disasters have been caused by 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heatwaves, droughts and other weather-related events.

"Weather and climate are major drivers of disaster risk and this report demonstrates that the world is paying a high price in lives lost," UNISDR head Margareta Wahlstrom said. "Economic losses are a major development challenge for many least developed countries battling climate change and poverty," she said.

The report highlights data gaps, noting that economic losses from weather-related disasters are much higher than the recorded figure of 1.89 trillion dollars, which accounts for 71 per cent of all losses attributed to natural hazards over the twenty-year period.

"In the long term, an agreement in Paris at COP21 on reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be a significant contribution to reducing damage and loss from disasters which are partly driven by a warming globe and rising sea levels," Wahlstrom said.

According to the report, Asia accounts for the "lion's share of disaster impacts" including 332,000 deaths and 3.7 billion people affected. The death toll in Asia included 138,000 deaths caused by Cyclone Nargis which struck Myanmar in 2008.

Storms were the deadliest type of weather-related disaster, accounting for 242,000 deaths or 40 per cent of the global weather-related deaths, with 89 per cent of these deaths occurring in lower-income countries. Overall, heatwaves accounted for 148,000 of the 164,000 lives lost due to extreme temperatures, with 92 per cent of deaths occurring in high-income countries. Drought affects Africa more than any other continent, including 77 droughts in East Africa alone.

The report said death tolls from flooding have also risen in many parts of the world. In 2007, floods killed 3,300 people in India and Bangladesh alone. In 2010, flooding killed 2,100 people in Pakistan and another 1,900 in China, while in 2013 some 6,500 people died due to floods in India.

Between 1995 and 2015, extreme temperatures caused 27 per cent of all deaths attributed to weather-related disasters, with the overwhelming majority (148,000 out of 164,000 lives lost) being the result of heatwaves. India recorded 2,500 lives lost in just one month between May and June this year, and Pakistan recorded 1,230 deaths from the same heatwave.

The report and analysis compiled by UNISDR and the Belgian-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) showed that since the first UN climate change conference (COP1) in 1995, 606,000 lives have been lost and 4.1 billion people have been injured, left homeless or in need of emergency assistance as a result of weather-related disasters.

CRED head Debarati Guha-Sapir said climate change, climate variability and weather events are a threat to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals' overall target of eliminating poverty. "We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle other risk drivers such as unplanned urban development, environmental degradation and gaps in early warnings," she said. "This all requires ensuring people are risk informed and strengthening institutions which manage disaster risk," she added.

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