Hurricane Harvey that stormed eastern Texas and Louisiana is among the most expensive natural disasters in the United States since 1980.
It’s far too early for a definitive estimate of the economic damage caused by the super storm, but unofficial figures put it at close to $110bn already.
Similarly, floodwaters still swamp large swaths of India’s financial capital Mumbai and large parts of Nepal and Bangladesh, in one of the worst flooding disasters to have affected the region in years.
International aid agencies said thousands of villages have been cut off by flooding with people being deprived of food and clean water for days.
Hundreds of people have already been killed and millions left homeless following devastating floods in South Asia, which suffers from frequent flooding during the monsoon season that lasts from June to September, but authorities point out this year’s floods have been much worse.
Each year, natural disasters kill thousands of people and inflict billions of dollars in economic losses. No nation or community is immune to their damage.
Studies show that the number of people displaced by natural disasters has nearly doubled since the 1970s and scientists believe that, ultimately, urbanisation is to blame for such displacements.
Driven by climate change and economic reasons, urbanisation creates a dangerous situation when a natural disaster strikes. Because of this, it is vitally important to reduce the number of people impacted by natural disaster using improved planning and warning systems, particularly within the developing world, where buildings and infrastructure are not likely to withstand the force of a natural hazard.
One of the major reasons for natural disasters is climate change. Environmental scientists say global warming loads the atmosphere with more water vapour, which increases the potential for extreme rainfall.
It is in this context that the call for a global hazard reduction policy assumes significance. Environmental experts and disaster and risk management specialists are now stressing on prevention and preparedness while sustaining and enhancing essential disaster response, relief, and recovery capabilities.
A high-level committee set up by the United States has proposed a multidisciplinary programme that integrates the following elements: hazard and risk assessments; awareness and education; mitigation; preparedness for emergency response, recovery, and reconstruction; prediction and warning; strategies for learning from disasters; and international co-operation.
These seven elements must be developed in unison so that, collectively, they can provide a framework for hazard reduction over the coming decades and beyond.
A key aspect of disaster risk reduction efforts is disseminating the right information to people; so that they will be empowered to know what to do and can ultimately help save their own lives.
Every life lost in a natural disaster is one life too many. Disaster risk reduction should be a priority for countries throughout the world to ensure that when things go wrong, communities are able to respond, and that the most vulnerable are protected.
We can’t prevent disasters from happening, but certainly we can reduce their impacts. This is where disaster risk reduction work becomes extremely critical.
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