A recent report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) says that river-basin floods in the region during 2014 incurred economic losses of US$16 billion.
According to the Natural Disasters in Asia and the Pacific: 2014 Year in Review report, river basin floods incurred the highest economic losses of all the natural disasters to strike in the region.
Other costly disasters included Cyclone HudHud (US$11 billion) in India, followed by the Ludian earthquake in China (US$6 billion), and the tropical cyclones Lingling and Kajiki in Japan (US$5.2 billion).
In 2014 Over Half of the World’s Natural Disasters Were in the Asia And Pacific Region
The report underlines that the Asia and Pacific region is one of the most vulnerable to natural disasters. In 2014, over half of the world’s 226 natural disasters occurred in the Asia and Pacific region.
Although it was a year without a single large-scale catastrophe caused by an earthquake or tsunami, the region experienced severe storms, cross-border floods and landslides, which accounted for 85 percent of all disasters. In total, over 6,000 fatalities were caused by natural disasters, compared to 18,744 deaths in 2013. Approximately 79.6 million people were affected by natural disasters across the region.
Need for Regional Co-Operation
The report says that the region was found largely unprepared in its response to cross-border floods and landslides.
Such disasters, which may very well be on the rise because of climate change, require improved regional information exchanges and the joint coordination of operations for effective early warning and evacuations. The report calls for strengthened regional cooperation to address cross-border disasters.
There has been some success in regional co-operation however, in particular with regards to the deployment of new technologies.
The report notes the integral role of regional cooperation for sharing real-time information of storms, floods and other disasters, and helping to forecast hazards and disseminate early warning information across countries.
2014 saw extensive use of innovative technologies – space applications, geo-spatial tools and techniques, navigation and crowdsourcing – for the monitoring and assessment of major disasters. From their origin across oceans to their landfall, storms were tracked and monitored continuously by a constellation of weather satellites, radars and a range of monitoring networks across the region.
Effective Early Warning Systems
The last year saw growing successes with regards to disaster risk reduction. Despite severe weather events in the region, such as cyclone Hudhud and typhoon Hagupit, the number of deaths as a result of natural disasters has fallen from the 18,744 deaths seen in 2013 to around 6,000 last year.
ESCAP’s report says effective early warning systems has played a huge part in significantly reducing death tolls.
“One important lesson from 2014 is that end-to-end early warning systems save lives,” said Ms. Shamika Sirimanne, Director of ESCAP’s ICT and Disaster Risk Reduction Division. “The successful preparation for cyclone Hudhud and typhoon Hagupit lies not only in the ability to predict the movement and intensity of storms, but also the capacity to engage and mobilize vulnerable communities in disaster preparedness.”
The 41 fatalities associated with cyclone Hudhud, a Category 4 storm, were considered relatively low, as were the 18 fatalities linked to Hagupit, a Category 3 typhoon.
According to the report, the Asia-Pacific region experienced five severe droughts in 2014, which affected 31.5 million people. The report calls for greater attention to slow-onset disasters, such as droughts, which receive the least attention but affect the poorest of the poor in the region.
Towards a New Global Framework For Disaster Risk Reduction
Leaders and decision-makers across Asia and the Pacific are preparing to finalize a new global framework for disaster risk reduction, which will replace the 2005 Hyogo Framework for Action in March 2015 in Sendai, Japan. The lessons from 2014 clearly show that building resilience remains a key priority in protecting lives and assets in the Asia and the Pacific.
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region. It was established in 1947 and has its headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand.
ESCAP is up of 53 Member States and 9 Associate Members, with a geographical scope that stretches from Turkey in the west to the Pacific island nation of Kiribati in the east, and from the Russian Federation in the north to New Zealand in the south, the region is home to 4.1 billion people, or two thirds of the world’s population.