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Natural Disasters In 2011 Made For Costliest Year Ever

Posted: 03/ 5/2012 1:18 pm

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The economic cost of disasters in 2011 was the highest in history — costing at least $380 billion, mainly due to earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, a U.N. envoy said Monday.

Margareta Wahlstrom, the secretary-general's special representative for disaster risk reduction, said the figure was two-thirds higher than the previous record in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck the southern United States.

In addition to the earthquakes, Wahlstrom said major floods in Thailand and other countries caused extensive damage.

"The main message is that this is an increasing — very rapidly increasing trend with increasing economic losses," Wahlstrom said.

Despite the rising costs, she said, deaths from disasters are proportionally declining because countries are getting much better at instituting early warning systems and preparedness measures.

"But the economics of disasters is becoming a major threat to a number of countries," Wahlstrom said.

She said every plan to improve development in a country must include measures to deal with the impact of climate change and natural disasters.

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Filed by Jessica Leader  |