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Red Cross warns against likely increase in natural disasters

In a report just out, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies warned of a new era of "super-disasters". According to the Geneva-based federation's World Disasters Report, 1998 was the grimmest year on record.

This content was published on June 24, 1999 - 16:42

In a report just out, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies warned of a new era of "super-disasters". It named global warming, environmental degradation and population growth as factors contributing to a likely increase in disasters.

According to the Geneva-based federation's World Disasters Report, 1998 was the grimmest year on record.

Pictured above is a child playing in a cardboard box in front of a family's makeshift home in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, in the wake of Hurricane Mitch.

The hurricane killed 10,000 people in Central America; and adverse weather conditions resulting from the El Nino weather pattern claimed 21,000 lives.

Indonesia suffered its worst drought in 50 years, and 180 million people in China were affected by flooding.

"Everyone is aware of the environmental problems of global warming and deforestation on the one hand and the social problems of increasing poverty and growing shanty towns on the other, " said Astrid Heiberg, president of the federation. "But when these two factors collide, you have a new scale of catastrophe."

Natural disasters created more refugees than conflict, according to the report. About 25 million people were driven from their land for environmental reasons.

"And this is just the beginning," warns the report. The number of people at risk from flooding is expected to increase tenfold, as rising temperatures and melting ice sheets are likely to increase sea levels by 44 centimetres in the next 80 years.

The report also contains a chapter on how poverty and bitter winters in Russia have accelerated malnutrition and disease. It says destitution puts families at greater risk from natural hazards. In addition, AIDS and tuberculosis are on the rise.


Source: World Disasters Report 1999

View the contents of the report on the web-site of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Federation:


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