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Floods, heatwaves send signal about global warming’s impact: UN

By AFP (Agence France Press) - June 27, 2007

Recent floods in Asia and Britain, and heatwaves in southern Europe, show the world must be better prepared to cope with the impact of climate change, the United Nation’s top disaster prevention official said Wednesday.

“Heavy rainfalls in Pakistan, India and northern England and heatwaves in Greece, Italy and Romania are indications of what might happen more frequently and more severely across the globe as a consequence of the global warming,” said Salvano Briceno, director of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

“We cannot wait to be taken by surprise, we know what is going to happen and we can prepare for it,” he added.

The UN body is trying to convince governments to give greater priority to reducing the risks from natural disasters and increasing their populations’ resilience to potentially deadly storms, floods or heatwaves.

That includes taking concrete measures such as early warning systems, building flood shelters, protecting houses as well as critical infrastructure like hospitals, schools, water and electricity supplies, and transport links.

“We are not trying to scare people but we want to alert every government of the urgency to put disaster risk reduction as a top priority of their political agenda as no country will be immune,” said Briceno.

Monsoon rains in western and southern India late last week, which caused flash floods and left 144 people dead, were followed by a cyclone that ripped through neighbouring Pakistan’s coastline, killing 19 people.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people in northern England were evacuated from their homes Tuesday after torrential rain claimed at least three lives and threatened to cause a dam to collapse.

At least 46 people have also died in a heatwave stretching across Greece, Italy, the Balkans, Turkey, and Romania where temperatures reached 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) on Tuesday.

A UN panel of the world’s leading climate change experts warned earlier this year that Earth was already warming and predicted severe consequences including drought, flooding, violent storms and increased hunger and disease.