Mass evacuations save lives in extreme weather

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

GENEVA, 18 September 2018 – This year will probably go down as one of the hottest years on record and is turning out to be another remarkable year for extreme weather events.

Record temperatures, heatwaves, storms, floods, drought and heavy rainfall have been evident across the globe. Following earlier catastrophes this year, notably wildfires in north America and Europe, widespread flooding in India, flooding and landslides in Japan, we are now experiencing floods and storms which are disrupting the lives of millions across the Americas, Africa and Asia.

This confirms the long term trend of the last forty years which has seen a doubling in the number of recorded extreme weather events which now regularly account for 90% of disasters caused by natural hazards notably floods, storms, landslides and wildfires.

Despite the extensive threat posed by events such as Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines and China, we are seeing relatively low mortality because of the success of weather forecasting, early warning systems and better public understanding of disaster risk.

The most visible sign of this is the record numbers of people who have been evacuated out of harm’s way over the last ten days, notably in the US, China and the Philippines.

However, the economic losses are likely to be considerable and the impact on the poor will be hardest. This underlines the importance of strategies to reduce disaster risk which include better adaptation to climate change.

UNISDR would like to draw attention to the growing risk posed by landslides worldwide due often to a combination of human activities and heavy rainfall.

One example of this was highlighted by the tragic loss of life in the Philippines from the landslide which struck the mining site of Itogon in Benguet province at the weekend. 33 miners have been confirmed dead and the death toll is likely to rise further as search and rescue efforts continue.

This underlines the findings in a new study which examines nearly 5,000 landslides which took place place since 2004 and which were responsible for almost 56,000 deaths. Nearly 700 of these landslides were linked to human activities like construction, illegal mining, and hill cutting. More than 75% occurred in Asia.

This year's International Day for Disaster Reduction, celebrated on October 13, is focussed on target (c) of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which seeks a reduction in economic losses from disasters and help eradicate poverty. Reducing economic losses from disasters has the power to transform lives.

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