Weather disasters likely to rise

Jan. 25, 2011 at 8:57 AM
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BRUSSELS, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Though 2010 was a record year in terms of the financial and human loss from natural disasters, trends suggest things could get worse, a Belgian report found.

The Center for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters, at that Universite catholique de Louvain in Brussels, found that the 373 natural disasters in 2010 killed more than 296,800 people and caused about $110 billion in damages.

Margareta Wahlstrom, the U.N. special envoy for disasters, said it's critical for local governments to use climate information in urban planning.

Weather patterns El Nino and La Nina, which can trigger heavy rains and volatile weather conditions, are expected to linger for the next 25 years, the World Meteorological Organization predicts.

Wahlstrom said weather-related disasters are likely to rise because of complications tied to global climate change. A heat wave during the summer caused more than 50,000 fatalities in Russia and the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti killed more than 222,000.

"These figures are bad but could be seen as benign in years to come," Wahlstrom said in a statement. "Unless we act now, we will see more and more disasters due to unplanned urbanization and environmental degradation."

The report found that although 2010 was a record year, none of the economic losses compare with the damage from hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005.

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