Sun, Dec 28, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Asian disasters could kill up to 1 million at one time

NATURAL: A report by an Australian government body said that rising populations and climate change could increase the impact of natural disasters

AFP , SYDNEY

The Asia-Pacific faces an era of large-scale natural disasters that could kill up to 1 million people at a time, with Indonesia, the Philippines and China most at risk, an Australian report said on Friday.

The Sydney Morning Herald cited a scientific report that found that the impact of natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis would in coming years be amplified by rising populations and climate change.

The paper said the report, by government body Geoscience Australia, had prompted Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to create a joint disaster training and research center.

Geoscience Australia could not be reached for comment on Friday.

LIKELY CASUALTIES

The Herald said the Australian scientists had analyzed the likelihood of earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis and volcanoes occurring in the region and then estimated the likely casualty toll.

The study found that cities in the Himalayan belt, China, Indonesia and the Philippines could experience earthquakes where the death toll could top 1 million.

Indonesia and the Philippines were was also at risk of volcanoes that could affect hundreds of thousands of people, while a low-lying country like Bangladesh could be ravaged by tsunamis, floods and cyclones.

The study, part of an assessment by Australia and Indonesia on humanitarian crises, said catastrophes that killed more than 10,000 people were likely to occur several times each decade and there was the potential for events to affect more than 1 million people.

The paper said that rising populations, climate change and food shortages could exacerbate natural events.

DATA FROM 400 YEARS

Geoscience Australia scientist Alanna Simpson said the analysis looked at the data of natural events from the past 400 years to predict the likelihood of future events.

“Whilst the incidence of natural hazards themselves — earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and the like — hasn’t really changed, the sheer number of people living in the Asia-Pacific region means any earthquake has the potential to affect hundreds of thousands, if not millions,” Simpson said.

“If we worked out that parts of Alaska, for instance, are likely to have a volcanic eruption every 100 years, the impact of those events would be pretty low because there is no one living in those parts of Alaska, whereas the same frequency in Java will have a huge impact,” Simpson said.

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