03 January 2011

Global disasters

As the world welcomes another year, a deluge happened in Australia, affecting 200,00 citizens in the country’s northeastern region.

The flood also wrought havoc to its agricultural and mining industry, impinging on the small businesses and tourism in Australia as well. Even the treatment plant was swamped so some residents experience ‘critical drinking water shortage’.

Disasters such as this have been happening since the 1800s. The strongest cyclone to date, Tip, grounded some eight ships in 1979 and killed 44 fishermen. Even a lake in a remote area in Cameroon caused the death of about 1,800 people and stripped everything around it.

The most powerful earthquake ever recorded is the Chile Earthquake. It struck the country in 1960, killing 6,000 people. If it had not been for the country’s preparedness and the remote location of the epicenter, many more would have died.

The Philippines also crafted an emergency plan of its own last year. Republic Act 10121 aimed to ‘uphold the people's constitutional rights to life and property’, ‘adhere to and adopt the universal norms, principles, and standards of humanitarian assistance’, and ‘incorporate internationally accepted principles of disaster risk management’, among others.

Had that been enough to shield five people who have died because of the Typhoon Megi last year? The law was signed about five months before the tropical storm struck.

The Philippines is naturally fragile, said James Reynolds, a storm chaser in Luzon. Typhoon Megi, which was renamed Typhoon Juan as it entered the Philippine shores, was also the strongest the country had last year, as far as Catherine Martin, manager of disaster management services at the Philippine National Red Cross, is concerned.

Some 20 governors campaigned to ‘make cities resilient’ too. Under the theme “Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation in the Philippines”, participants committed their own levels to invest more in disaster risk reduction as well as protect ecosystems.

“We cannot stop cities [from] growing but we can start planning them in a more sustainable way,” said Margareta Wahlström, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction. “It does not require huge amounts of new resources, but different ways of using existing resources.”

Representing the Philippines, Albay joined the UNISDR World Disaster Reduction Campaign along with Mexico City (Mexico), Durban (South Africa), Bogota (Colombia), Port-au-Prince (Haiti), Amman, (Jordan), Albay (the Philippines), Cairns (Australia), Chennai City (India), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Kathmandu (Nepal) and Saint Louis (Senegal).


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