In harm’s way

Study shows Asia is most ex­posed to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, while Africa is most vul­ner­a­ble.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING -

COUN­TRIES and mega cities across Asia are highly ex­posed to nat­u­ral haz­ards rang­ing from cy­clones to earth­quakes, but peo­ple in sub- Sa­ha­ran Africa are more vul­ner­a­ble, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port.

Nearly 1.4 bil­lion peo­ple in South Asia – In­dia, Bangladesh, Pak­istan – face at least one ma­jor threat from Na­ture, es­pe­cially flood­ing, se­vere storms boosted by ris­ing seas, and quakes.

In the case of Bangladesh, 100% of its pop­u­la­tion is ex­posed, com­pared to 82% for In­dia and 70% in Pak­istan.

China, In­done­sia, Ja­pan and the Philip­pines are also among the na­tions with the largest num­bers of peo­ple in harm’s way.

The United States, Mex­ico and Brazil round out the top 10. When it comes to vul­ner­a­bil­ity, how­ever, Africa is the con­ti­nent where peo­ple are most likely to suf­fer in­jury, dis­ease and death as a re­sult of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, ac­cord­ing to the Nat­u­ral Haz­ards Vul­ner­a­bil­ity Index from risk an­a­lysts Verisk Maple­croft.

The ca­pac­ity to cope with dis­as­ter can de­ter­mine whether a high- mag­ni­tude earth­quake, for ex­am­ple, will cause hun­dreds of deaths, as hap­pened in Chile in 2010, or hun­dreds of thou­sands, as be­fell Haiti in the same year.

Nine out of 10 coun­tries ranked as most vul­ner­a­ble to nat­u­ral haz­ards in the index are in sub- Sa­ha­ran Africa, and 23 of 25 are on the con­ti­nent.

South Su­dan – plagued by drought and war – heads the list of the coun­tries most de­fence­less against dis­as­ter, fol­lowed by Bu­rundi, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Chad, Niger, Su­dan, Mali and the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo.

“The fre­quency and mag­ni­tude of nat­u­ral haz­ard events can­not be con­trolled,” the re­port noted. “But the devel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion of dis­as­ter risk re­duc­tion strate­gies can help min­imise the hu­man­i­tar­ian and eco­nomic im­pacts.”

Among mega cities, Manila – fac­ing a triple threat from cy­clones, su­per­storms and earth­quakes – tops the list of ur­ban ar­eas with the highest num­ber of peo­ple ex­posed.

Tokyo and Jakarta are in sec­ond and third place, with Dong­guan in south­ern China, Dhaka and Kolkata fol­low­ing close be­hind.

Mex­ico City, Delhi and Sao Paulo all have huge pop­u­la­tions ex­posed to ma­jor storms.

“This anal­y­sis shows that gover­nance is key to lower vul­ner­a­bil­ity,” the re­port said.

With­out ma­jor re­forms and po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity, “coun­tries such as In­dia and the Philip­pines are un­likely to see im­prove­ments in the near term.” – AFP

A woman cook­ing on a makeshift ba­nana plant raft at a flooded vil­lage in Kuri­gram, Bangladesh. — reuters

Plagued by drought and war, South Su­dan heads the list of coun­tries most de­fence­less against nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. — AP

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