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Weathering storms

A World Meteorological Organization report has found the Philippines to account for 75 percent of all deaths caused by weather, climate and water hazards in the Southwest Pacific region in the past 50 years.

It its “Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes,” the weather agency of the United Nations said majority of the deadliest events in the region from 1970 to 2019 were tropical cyclones with 2013 super typhoon Haiyan topping the list.

While no disaster in the Philippines ranked among the 10 most deadly around the world in the past 5 decades, it fare highest in the Southwest Pacific region which includes Indonesia, Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.

Globally there were more than 11,000 disasters attributed to weather, climate and water-related hazards in the 50-year period. These disasters, defined as the “serious disruption” on the function of a community due to hazardous events, have resulted in over 2 million deaths and $3.6 trillion in economic losses.

The Philippines recorded 48,950 deaths between 1970 and 2019, mostly caused by storms. Our archipelagic nation that averages 20 cyclones annually faces the brunt of extreme weather and climate change due to our location relative to the Pacific Ocean.

According to the WMO, the number of weather and climate-related disasters have surged fivefold in the past 50 years. Increased water vapor in the atmosphere has exacerbated extreme rainfall and flooding, while warming oceans due to climate change have affected the extent and frequency of most intense tropical storms.

Despite the bleak numbers, the WMO said early warning systems and disaster management have led to a decrease in mortality by almost threefold from 1970 to 2010. However, much remains to be done with only half of the 193 members of the WMO equipped with multihazard early warning systems.

As one of most vulnerable countries in the planet, the Philippines needs to be among the most prepared for the weather, climate and water hazards that will inevitably threaten our communities. The pandemic should stop our early warning systems, rescue equipment, evacuation centers and disaster risk reduction management systems from continuously improving as the climate changes.*

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