Top UN official stresses importance of disaster contingency plans

Saturday, November 17, 2012
UNISDR chief Margareta Wahlström addressing presser
[PHOTO: UNifeed] 
New York: In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy's devastating effects in New York City and neighbouring areas, the Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Margareta Wahlström, told a press conference that, "we should expect more unusual events, events where they didn't use to happen."

Wahlström said that these "may seem like freak events, but that's one of the characteristics of climate change impact for the future."

The UN official stressed the importance of preparedness and contingency measures. She said disasters preparedness is "a development issue," one that "can only be dealt with if it's part of countries overall strategic planning, development planning, and if the financial and policy development instruments that will guide how societies are working, are fully recognizing and integrating disaster risk."

Wahlström argued that city dwellers are in many ways ill prepared to deal with these challenges. She said "when your mobile antenna goes down, when your power goes down, you are more helpless than you were a hundred years ago, because you actually don't know how to operate in that environment, and this is the challenge for our mega cities around the world that makes them a bit more vulnerable than rural communities."

Beginning in late October in the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane Sandy grew into what some media reports described as a "once in a generation" storm, causing death and destruction across the Caribbean region and the eastern seaboard of the United States.

In the Caribbean, five million people were affected and 72 people died. In Haiti, 54 people died, and hundreds of thousands of people were hit by floods and heavy winds. In Cuba, 20 per cent of the country's population was affected. Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas also suffered significantly.

Along the US eastern coastline and the New York metropolitan area, more than 100 people lost their lives and many families were left without power. -UNifeed
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