March 11 Early warning systems and a drive to
protect mangroves and coral reefs as buffers to waves are among
ways to safeguard coasts at risk from tsunamis and storm surges,
U.N. studies show.
Japan's devastating tsunami on Friday was caused by a quake
beyond human control but efforts to limit impacts from more
powerful cyclones or a rise in world sea levels, blamed on human
emissions of greenhouse gases, can also help lessen damage.
The U.N. panel of climate change scientists said in its
latest 2007 report that lessons from seismic events such as the
Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 or weather disasters including
Hurricane Katrina which stuck New Orleans in 2005 include:
1) Early warning and response can curb death tolls and
2) Teaching people about the hazards can enable communities to
work to adapt
3) Many factors reduce the ability or willingness of people to
flee. Those include the warning time, exit routes and "their
perceived need to protect property, pets and possessions."
4) Natural coastal barriers -- coral reefs, islands and
wetlands such as mangroves and marshes -- are a first line of
defence against storm surges and floods. Safeguarding such
natural systems can help limit the damage.
5) Repeated events such as storm surges caused by hurricanes
reduce the effectiveness of defences.
6) The trauma of extreme events can lead to mental health
7) Uncoordinated and poorly regulated construction along many
coasts has aggravated the risks.
8) Effective disaster prevention and response rely on strong
institutions, as well as adequate public preparedness.
Nick Nuttall, spokesman of the U.N. Environment Programme,
said many countries have already worked to lessen the impact of
-- Bangladesh, for instance, has built shelters that have
cut death tolls from cyclones after about 300,000 people died in
cyclone Bhola in 1970.
-- Mosques survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami better
than many other buildings, apparently due to wide doors and open
spaces that helped absorb the shock of waves.
-- In Sri Lanka, some coastal parks with sand dunes and
natural vegetation were little affected by the tsunami. Many
countries are now trying to restore natural vegetation such as
mangroves as buffers.
-- One big problem after the 2004 tsunami was contamination
of wells by salt water and other pollution uprooted from trash
dumps. Flooding of latrines also spread disease.
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(Editing by Matthew Jones)