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Slums widen the risks from floods, cyclones

THE rampant growth of urban slums around the world and weather extremes linked to climate change have increased the risks from "megadisasters" such as floods and cyclones, a United Nations report said yesterday.

The study - which examines natural disaster trends and strategies to reduce potential catastrophes - also noted that millions of people in rural areas are at higher risk from disasters such as landslides or crippling droughts blamed on shifting rainfall patterns.

Much of a nearly 200-page report restates warnings from previous studies about unchecked urban growth and shortsighted rural planning.

But it also seeks to sharpen the apparent link between climate change and the severity and frequency of major natural disasters including severe droughts and epic storms.

"Climate change magnifies the interactions between disaster risk and poverty. On the one hand, it magnifies weather-related and climatic hazards. On the other hand, it will decrease the resilience of many poor households and communities to absorb the impact and recover," said the report, which was released in the Gulf nation of Bahrain.

At least 900 million people now live in shantytowns and other makeshift settlements in cities vulnerable to disasters such as cyclones, flooding or earthquakes, the report said. Those populations are growing about 25 million a year.

Lead author Andrew Maskrey said: "There are ways to alleviate the conditions of intense poverty if leaders take the steps."


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