COPENHAGEN, Dec 13 (AFP) Dec 14, 2009
Natural disasters in 2009 claimed the smallest annual toll in human life and economic loss in a decade but continued to be overwhelmingly climate related, the UN reported Monday.
Some 58 million people have been affected by 245 natural calamities so far this year, more than 90 percent of them weather events amplified by climate change, according to the preliminary figures.
Just over 8,900 people have been killed by disasters of all kinds, with 80 percent of those deaths climate-related, said the report from the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Belgium, working for the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO).
"Statistics this year show lower figures compared to previous years, which is good news for people and countries," said Margareta Wahlstrom, UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction told journalists in Copenhagen, where UN climate talks are under way.
"However, extreme weather disasters remain at the top of the list and will continue to affect more people in the future as more than half of the world's population highly exposed is living in coastal regions," she said.
Comparing this year's figures to the rest of the decade gives a false impression of overall trends, said CRED director Debarati Guha Sapir.
"If you pull back and look at the trends over a much longer period, starting in the 1970s, you will see a very serious increase in the total number of natural disasters," about seven-fold.
"The portion of those that are weather-related is steadily increasing" and is now consistently above 90 percent, she added.
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