By Robert Evans
GENEVA, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Asia was the world’s most dangerous region for natural disasters in 2006, accounting for three-quarters of more than 21,000 deaths, a U.N.-backed report said on Monday.
The report, compiled by the Belgian-based research centre CRED and the U.N.’s disaster reduction agency ISDR, covered disasters such as floods, tidal waves, landslides, storms and earthquakes.
In Europe, it said, deaths caused by extreme weather rose 5 percent to 15 percent of the global total.
"Asia, with its millions of poor people living in vulnerable areas in flood plains and river basins, is still the continent most hit by disasters triggered by natural hazards," Debarati Guha-Sapir of the CRED told a news conference.
Last year, she said, "there was a small increase in extreme temperature events — heatwaves and freeze-ups — and Europe was specially badly hit." Guha-Sapir, a professor at Brussels University of Louvain, was presenting an advance version of the report to be issued later this year. The report said 21,342 people died in natural disasters in 2006.
Guha-Sapir said that Europe’s fatality figures had been pushed up by last July’s heatwave which resulted in 1,000 deaths in the Netherlands and 940 deaths in Belgium. Cold spells had also killed 801 people in the Ukraine.
She added Europe in general was not doing enough to prepare and reduce the impact of such events.
"Countries need to have a detailed plan in place to mitigate the effects of temperature extremes," Guha-Sapir said — although she noted France had taken measures to prevent a repetition of the widespread heatwave deaths in 2003.
Bangladesh had made huge advances, setting up early warning systems for cyclones which had saved thousands of lives in recent years by ensuring people left danger-zones quickly.
"The small rise in extreme events indicates that we might have to suffer more from the negative impact of climate change in the future," said ISDR Director Salvano Briceno.
"We need to be better prepared globally and not only in Asia and Africa," he said.