Hundreds of delegates to a UN conference on disasters put the final touches on a pact yesterday that was to reflect strong support for the world body to create a tsunami alert system and help poor nations gird against cyclones, floods and other natural calamities. \nBut disputes over the wording of the document have underscored differences over just what causes such disasters. \nThe five-day meeting that wraps up today in Kobe had been reorganized to focus on finding money and sketching out details for a tsunami warning system for southern Asia, following the Dec. 26 earthquake and killer waves that hammered the Asian and African coastlines. Figures for the number of dead vary widely, from 157,780 to 221,110. \nOn Thursday, officials from the richest nations pledged roughly US$8 million to begin work on a new tsunami alert network in the Indian Ocean, expected to cost US$30 million and be operational by the middle of next year. A tsunami network in the Pacific, set up in 1965, now protects some 26 nations. \nScientists and officials have agreed on the merits of an Indian Ocean system, which could have allowed coastal residents to flee to safety had it been in place last month. Many support setting up a network that also monitors the Mediterranean, Caribbean and other parts of the globe. \nHowever, they have disagreed about other issues on the conference agenda. \nThe 25-nation EU has backed poor island nations threatened by storms and rising ocean waters in pushing for a UN action plan -- expected to be adopted at the Kobe conference -- that would refer to climate change as a possible cause of future natural disasters. \nBut the US delegation, along with officials from Australia and Canada, has demanded that those references be deleted. Negotiations late on Thursday lasted into the early morning hours of yesterday. \n"Climate change has become a very political issue," said Maryam Golnaraghi, who heads disaster-prevention at the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization. \nA UN-organized group of scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said in a recent assessment of climate science that rising global temperatures could lead to more extreme weather patterns that trigger cyclones and droughts. \nScientists attribute the trend to higher levels of carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases that occur naturally but have been boosted by factories and cars that burn fossil fuels. \nThe Kyoto Protocol, which takes effect Feb. 16, aims to limit emissions of those gases, which can trap heat in the atmosphere. US President George W. Bush has rejected the Kyoto Protocol, however, citing economic concerns. \nSalvano Briceno, who heads the UN action plan for preventing disasters, played down the battle over the "framework for action." The draft document had cited climate change as a factor in natural disasters and called for officials to identify "climate-related disaster risks." \n"It is not the intention of the US or any of the other nations to delete reference to climate change. The issue was whether it [climate change] should be referred to so many times," Briceno, director of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, told reporters on Thursday.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies