2011 disasters cost record $380 billion in economic losses, UN says


Disasters cost the world a record figure of more than $380 billion in 2011, according to the United Nations.

UN special envoy on disaster risk reduction, Margareta Wahlstrom, said while countries were doing better at restricting death tolls, economic costs were spiraling, Agence France-Presse reported

Her comments had been foreshadowed by experts at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, according to IRIN News.

"Never before has this world suffered so much economic loss due to natural disaster, most of which has been in Asia and the Pacific," Sanjay Srivastava, UN regional adviser for disaster risk reduction, told IRIN in Bangkok, adding that 90 percent of the economic losses caused by to natural disasters in 2011 were suffered by Asian countries.

Wahlstrom, meantime, said the $380 billion figure, mainly due to earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, was "the minimum" cost and already two-thirds higher than the last record in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina.

Floods in Thailand and other countries also sent the costs last year skyrocketing.

"Earthquakes are the costliest and the deadliest of disasters," Wahlstrom told a press conference to mark the first anniversary of the Japan quake on March 11 last year.

(GlobalPost reports: Fukushima: a year on)

The UN disaster risk reduction agency headed by Wahlstrom put the damage costs of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear explosion at Fukushima at more than $210 billion.

The Thailand floods cost more than $40 billion, the group said, while New Zealand's central bank has estimated that the deadly earthquake on Feb. 22 last year caused about $25 billion in losses.

(GlobalPost reports: Top 5 worst natural disasters of 2011)

According to the Associated Press, Wahlstrom said any plan to improve development in a country must include measures to deal with the impact of climate change and natural disasters, as: "the economics of disasters is becoming a major threat to a number of countries."

She said 50 percent of the world's 7 billion people were exposed to disaster risks because they live in vulnerable areas

However, early warning systems and preparedness had helped to reduce disaster mortalities, she said.

(More from GlobalPost: Chinese cars, made in Bulgaria

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