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Asia: Earthquakes highlight need for regional preparedness, say experts

Source(s):  Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)

Bangkok - Two back-to-back earthquakes in Japan and Myanmar, which left more than 27,000 people dead and thousands more injured, underscore the need for greater disaster preparedness in the region, experts say.

"Natural hazards to do not recognize man-made borders, and this in itself is a compelling reason for countries to come together for regional cooperation in disaster-risk reduction," Krasae Chanawongse, chairman of the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) told IRIN in Bangkok.

According to a recent report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Asia-Pacific region accounts for 85 percent of global deaths from natural disasters, and 38 percent of global economic losses.

"Building codes, stronger schools and hospitals, and the location of power plants are all important. We need risk-sensitive land-use planning," said Sanny Jegillos, regional programme coordinator at the UN Development Programme, at an ADPC regional panel discussion earlier this month in Bangkok. Climate change, coupled with rapid economic growth, urbanization, and unregulated construction, make the region particularly vulnerable, he added.

While the region has shown more effective and rapid responses compared with 10-15 years ago, "progress has been regrettably uneven because some countries lack funds, expertise, and technology", Oliver Lacey Hall, regional head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Bangkok, said.

According to the latest figures provided by OCHA on 30 March, the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March left over 27,000 people dead, 173,000 homeless, and more than 16,000 missing.

Two weeks later, a 6.8 magnitude quake in Myanmar's eastern Shan state left 74 dead, 125 injured, and 703 homes damaged or destroyed. More than 3,000 people were left homeless, the Myanmar Red Cross reported.

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  • Publication date 31 Mar 2011

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