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Deadly Central American floods highlight weakness

Deadly Central American floods highlight need for better preparation – UN expert

The deadly flooding and huge mudslides caused by Hurricane Stan that have killed over 100 people in Central America and southern Mexico once again underscore the need for better preparation and more government investment in mitigating natural hazards, a senior United Nations disaster prevention official said today.

“To reduce the number of people killed or affected by natural hazards, we have to integrate risk reduction, including risk mapping in land-use planning and urban management, in the priorities of every government in disaster-prone areas,” the Director of the Secretariat of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), Salvano Briceño, said.

Noting that flooding is the most destructive type of natural hazard in the world, accounting every year for over two-thirds of the people affected by natural disasters, he added that once again it was the most vulnerable who suffered most, since they often have no choice but to build houses in unsafe plots without recognizing the risks they face.

Mr. Briceño pointed to the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 adopted by the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Japan, in January, which called for a global commitment to speeding up disaster response times, as well as setting guidelines for disaster prevention and developing people-centred early warning systems that provide timely information easily understood by at-risk populations.

“This plan of action has to be implemented as soon as possible if we want to reverse the current rising trend of economic and social losses due to natural hazards. Governments have to invest more in disaster prevention,” he said.

Disaster prevention and mitigation gained a top place on the international agenda after December’s Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killed more than 200,000 people and affected up to 5 million others in a dozen countries, mostly due to huge flooding waves. Experts say an early warning system could have saved scores of thousands of people in the tsunami’s path by giving them time to flee to higher ground.

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