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Red Cross Sees SuperDisasters Ahead

Red Cross Sees SuperDisasters Ahead

98 worst year on record for natural disasters, charity reports

MSNBC STAFF AND WIRE REPORTSGENEVA, June 24  Last years natural disasters were the most damaging on record but its likely we havent seen the worst, the International Federation of the Red Cross reported Thursday. Global warming, deforestation, poverty and overcrowded cities will likely trigger more frequent and more severe superdisasters, the charity said it its annual report on disasters around the world.

EVERYONE IS aware of the environmental problems of global warming and deforestation on the one hand and the social problems of increasing poverty ... on the other, said Astrid Heiberg, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. But when these two factors collide, you have a new scale of catastrophe  one the report described as the age of superdisasters.

The World Disasters Report called 1998 the worst year on record, with an estimated overall disaster bill of more than $90 billion. Natural disasters created more refugees than conflict, the report said. Among the key reasons:

 Hurricane Mitch killed 10,000 in Central America.
 Flooding in China affected 180 million people.
 Indonesia was parched by the worst drought in 50 years.
 Fires, droughts and floods from last years El Nino claimed 21,000 lives.
 Declining soil fertility, drought, flooding and deforestation drove 25 million environmental refugees from their land  accounting for 58 percent of the worlds refugee population.

AREAS OF CONCERN NBC's Robert Hager reports last month on a government report warning that the cost of natural disasters in the United States is spinning out of control.

The report estimated the number of people needing assistance over the past six years due to floods and earthquakes had risen to more than 5.5 million from less than half a million.

It also pointed out that:

 1 billion people live in unplanned shantytowns.
 40 of the 50 fastest growing cities are at risk of earthquakes.
 Half the worlds population live in coastal zones, with 10 million at constant risk of flooding.
 Some 96 percent of all deaths from natural disasters are in developing countries.


The Red Cross voiced concern that as the number of disasters increase, the amount of aid for poor countries is falling. Over the past five years, emergency aid funds have been slashed by 40 percent.

Insurance coverage is also shrinking, as the industry tries to protect itself against bearing the costs of climate change.

After suffering a number of billion dollar storms, many insurance companies now refuse to insure the hurricane-hit Caribbean area. In the case of Hurricane Mitch, which devastated much of Honduras and Nicaragua, only 2 percent of the total $7 billion in losses was covered, it said.

And that substantial gap will continue to increase as the insurance industry continues to retreat from the front line of disaster coverage to escape escalating losses, the report said.

It urged governments to spend more on disaster preparedness. In China, a study showed that $3.5 billion invested in flood control over the past 40 years saved the economy $12 billion in potential losses.

The report, as well as background information including videos, is available at the IFRC Web site at

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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-- Ashton & Leska (, June 24, 1999


THAT,S WHY the hurray for me--hell with you crowd, DESERVE what they get.

-- al-d. (CATT@ZIANET.COM), June 24, 1999.

Just a simultaneous worldwide cascading domino interconnected avalanche, earthquake, volcano, tornado, blizzard, typhoon, flood, tidal wave, firestorm, lightning strike, meteor hit, hazmat spill, sewage sea backup, accidental nuke launch, purposeful wars, genocide, masses of starving desperate displaced refugees, bio/chemo terrorism, hacker hells, epidemics, solar torches, asteroid belt, environmental degradation, totally new catastrophes, times 10000 .

Oh, and there's also that unprecedented systemic failure of the technological crutch propping up the artificial carrying capacity of a global civilization on the brink.

Now, who again thinks it is silly extremism to be prudent and prepare?

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-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, June 24, 1999.

Ashton and Leska,

Another article on this new report is this one from the BBC:

"The misery of 98"

-- Linkmeister (, June 24, 1999.

GEE, maybe the guy that wrote> THE LATE GREAT-PLANET EARTH by hal lyndsey. ain,t so off the wall, afterall.

-- al-d. (CATT@ZIANET.COM), June 24, 1999.


Premillennial Dispensationalism is dying fast. Ten years from now it will be dead.

-- Prometheus (, June 24, 1999.

See also...

24 June 1999


(Last year's natural disasters worst on record) (480)
By Wendy Lubetkin
USIA European Correspondent latest&f=99062401.glt&t=/products/washfile/newsitem.shtml

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 24, 1999.

From the USIA report...

"Insurance companies fear the destructive effects of climate change could bankrupt the industry. In 1992, the damage inflicted by Hurricane Andrew drained one-tenth of the industry's global reserves in one night. Many insurance companies now refuse to cover the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean."

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 24, 1999.

A & L : That discription of the coming disaster has GOT to be the greatest analogy yet!!! HoooooohahahahahaWhoooo. I just *adore* creative minds...ROTF.......whewwww!

-- Will continue (, June 24, 1999.

Did you read the article, on g.north-link. the 1 with picture of downed-jet.there is an article, about,scientist,s fear global-warming will increase diseases, & pests.--sort of scary.

-- al-d. (CATT@ZIANET.COM), June 24, 1999.


Premillenial dispensation will be damaged by all the folks predicting a Y2K rapture. When it doesn't happen, your incorrect hypothesis will be adopted by many. But that doesn't change the truth. You get ready to accept the mark, I'm out of here. The KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS is coming back, the sooner the better. Got Salvation?

Waiting for the Trumpet,


-- trafficjam (judgementday@ahead.soon), June 24, 1999.


You forgot runaway acid indigestion, athlete's foot fungus outbreak, and epidemic zit-scarring from too much sun fun.

-- LP (, June 24, 1999.

Yes, and we forgot nuclear plant meltdowns. Dope-slap, solly ...

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, June 24, 1999.

The real question is: how a country which is barely (or badly) handling Y2K will handle an additional super hurricane, etc.? Probably not well at all.

-- Mad Monk (, June 25, 1999.

Natural disasters - At the hand of God or man?

Wednesday, June 23, 1999 By Janet N. Abramovitz Storms, floods, droughts, and fires in 1998 caused a staggering 32,000 deaths worldwide. In that year another 300 million people -- more than the population of the United States -- were displaced from their homes or forced to resettle because of extreme weather events. According to figures complied by Worldwatch Institute and the Munich Reinsurance Company, the costs of weather-related disasters in 1998 reached a record high of more than $92 billion -- a 50 percent increase over the previous record of $61 billion in 1996. Disaster losses in 1998 alone far exceed the $78 billion in losses for the entire decade of the 1980s. Munich Re estimated in its 1998 year-end report that the number of natural catastrophes has tripled since the 1960s, increasing the overall cost to the world's economies nine-fold. Floods, storms, and other events are certainly not new phenomena. Indeed, natural disturbances are a vital part of nature, restoring soil fertility, and shaping the landscape. The search to understand the roots of natural events like great floods has been a theme in virtually every civilization's epic tales and creation myths. Early civilizations were closely linked to natural cycles and developed sophisticated world views that tied weather patterns and disasters to their actions. For example, in Indonesia, a sultan's empire could rise or fall based on the portentous eruptions of the islands' many volcanoes. Science and technology have allowed us to more carefully document and understand disasters and large climatological phenomena. While technological advances have often allowed us to help predict and provide early warnings about disasters, they have also given us the ability to exacerbate -- and even cause -- many "natural" disasters. By destroying forests, damming rivers, filling in wetlands, and destabilizing the climate, human actions are unraveling the strands of a complex ecological safety net that protects against storms and other calamities. A case in point is the costliest disaster of 1998 -- the flooding of China's Yangtze River -- which caused more than 4,000 deaths, dislocated 223 million people, inundated 25 million hectares of cropland, and cost well over $36 billion. Heavy summer rains are common in southern and central China, and flooding often ensues. But in 1998, as the floodwater continued to rise, it became clear that other factors besides unusually heavy rains were at play. Indeed, in the past few decades 85 percent of the forest cover in the Yangtze Basin had been cleared by logging and agriculture, according to a recent study by the World Resources Institute and Worldwatch. Deforestation had left many steep hillsides bare. The loss of forests, which normally intercept rainfall and allow it to be absorbed by the soil, permitted water to rush across the land, carrying valuable topsoil with it. As the runoff raced across the denuded landscape, it caused floods. In addition, the river's natural flood controls had been undermined by numerous dams and levies, and a large proportion of the basin's wetlands, which usually act as natural "sponges," had been filled in or destroyed. All these changes reduced the capacity of the Yangtze's watershed to absorb rain, and greatly increased the speed and severity of the resulting runoff. In Hunan province, for instance, historical records show that whereas in early centuries flooding occurred once every 20 years or so, it now occurs 9 out of 10 years. In China, government officials initially denied that the Yangtze floods were anything but natural -- flooding was due to heavy rains caused by El Nino, they said. But as the disaster toll added up, the State Council finally recognized the human element. It banned logging in the upper Yangtze watershed, prohibited additional land reclamation projects in the river's flood plain, and earmarked $2 billion to reforest the watershed. Paradoxically, clearing forests also exacerbates drought in dry years by allowing the soil to dry out more quickly. Such droughts helped fuel the record-breaking fires in Indonesia and Brazil in 1997 and 1998. These massive fires occurred in tropical forests that are normally too moist to burn. But when fragmented by logging and agricultural clearing, the forests dried out to the point where deliberately set fires were able to spread quickly out of control. The smoke and haze from Indonesia's fires choked neighboring countries, affecting about 70 million people. Schools, airports, and businesses were shut down. Crops were lost to the drought and fires, and the haze impaired the pollination of crops. The Economic and Environment Program for Southeast Asia, a research network, and the World Wide Fund for Nature conservatively estimated the economic damage to Indonesia and its neighbors at about $4.5 billion. Bangladesh suffered its most extensive flood of the century in the summer of 1998, when two-thirds of the country remained inundated for months. While annual floods are part of a natural cycle in this low-lying country, which encircles the meandering deltas of the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers, the 1998 floods reached near-record levels and did not recede for months. More than 30 million people were left temporarily homeless, 10,000 miles of roads were heavily damaged, and the annual rice harvest was reduced by 2 million tons. Overall damage estimates exceeded $3.4 billion. Heavy logging upriver in the Himalayas exacerbated the disaster, as did the runoff from extensive development that helped constrict the region's rivers and floodplains with silt and mud. In addition, large expanses of stabilizing mangroves had been removed from the shoreline in recent years to make way for shrimp ponds, exposing the coast to further inundation from the storms. In the future, rising sea levels caused by climate change are projected to make Bangladesh even more vulnerable to flooding. Human-induced climate change will play an increasingly significant role in future disasters. There is strong evidence that the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from fossil-fuel and other emissions of human industry is altering the Earth's climate. As Worldwatch researchers Chris Flavin and Seth Dunn have reported, six of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1990. Rising temperatures lead to more severe storms, floods and droughts in many regions. And as greenhouse-gas levels continue to rise, scientists project accelerated climate change in the coming decades. "El Nino" also played a role in the disasters of 1998. The anomalous weather phenomenon, which every few years causes a warming of Pacific waters, became a household word as a scapegoat for strange weather patterns the world over. While meteorologists have tied El Nino to some of the 1998 disasters, no previous El Nino event has resulted in such devastating consequences. Other cyclical changes observed by meteorologists, such as warmer Atlantic waters, also set the stage for more severe weather. As Colorado State University meteorologist William Gray predicted at the National Hurricane Conference in April, "The odds strongly favor us entering a new era for storms." (Janet N. Abramovitz is a member of the research staff at Worldwatch Institute.) Copyright 1999, Worldwatch Institute Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate, All Rights Reserved

-- (Coming_to@bioregion.nearyou), June 25, 1999.

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