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CORRECTED-Sharp rise in natural disasters in last 20 years, Asia hardest hit - UN

(Corrects figure in 3rd para to $2.97 trillion in losses)

GENEVA, Oct 12 (Reuters) - There has been a dramatic increase in extreme weather events in the past 20 years, which are taking a heavy human and economic toll worldwide and are on track to expand further, and Asia has been hardest-hit, the United Nations said on Monday.

China (577) and the United States (467) recorded the highest number of disaster events from 2000 to 2019, followed by India (321), the Philippines (304) and Indonesia (278), the U.N. said in a report issued the day before the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. Eight of the top 10 countries are in Asia.

Some 7,348 major disaster events were recorded globally, claiming 1.23 million lives, affecting 4.2 billion people and causing $2.97 trillion in economic losses during the two-decade period.

The number of major floods more than doubled to 3,254. Drought, wildfires and extreme temperature events also wrought havoc.

“More people are being affected by the expanding climate emergency,” Mami Mizutori, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, told a briefing.

She called for governments to invest in early warning systems and have disaster risk reduction strategies in place.

Debarati Guha-Sapir of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at the University of Louvain, Belgium, which provided the statistics for the report, said: “If this level of growth in extreme weather events continues over the next twenty years, the future of mankind looks very bleak indeed.

“Heatwaves are going to be our biggest challenge in the next 10 years, especially in the poor countries,” she said.

Geo-physical events such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes have killed more people than any of the other natural hazards reviewed, the report said. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which took more than a quarter of a million lives, was the deadliest.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Ed Osmond

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