Rich nations can also suffer from natural disasters, says UN agency chief

26 October 2004
Sálvano Briceño

The deadly typhoons and earthquakes that have recently struck Japan illustrates that even wealthy countries are vulnerable to natural hazards, the head of the United Nations disaster-reduction body said today.

Sálvano Briceño, Director of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), called on countries to step up their education, environmental protection, land-use planning and development projects so that they can prepare better for the inevitable hazards and reduce their risk and scale of exposure to many disasters.

Global warming is also having an impact, he said, increasing the likelihood of more frequent and more severe tropical storms.

At least 80 people were killed and more than 370 people injured when Typhoon Tokage, a so-called super-typhoon, lashed Japan last week. It was only the latest and deadliest of a record 10 typhoons that struck the Asian nation this season.

A series of strong earthquakes over the weekend also killed 25 people in Niigata Prefecture, which is about 250 kilometres northwest of Tokyo. Many homes, buildings and roads were damaged or destroyed.

Mr. Briceño said Japan was one of the world's best-prepared nations against the impact of earthquakes and typhoons, and the death toll would have been much higher if the events occurred in another country.

He said the series of tragedies "reminds us that all countries, rich and poor, are subject to increasing threats from social vulnerability and natural hazards," adding that affluent and impoverished countries need to work together to form common solutions and strategies for dealing with disasters.

The World Conference on Disaster Reduction will be held next January in Kobe, Japan, coinciding with the tenth anniversary of the massive earthquake which struck the city and surrounding areas.


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