The UN disaster office is calling on governments to take more preventative action to reduce the human and economic toll caused by weather-related disasters.
The last week of December is proving to be one full of freak weather occurrences: extreme tornadoes struck the US over Christmas, Mexico was hit by the largest snowfalls in decades, and heavy flooding has swamped parts of South America and the UK.
In the wake of such weather-related disasters, Margarete Wahlström, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), is urging governments around the world to act now to reduce human and economic losses from such disasters in the future.
“We have no time to lose as weather-related disasters continue to increase, affecting millions of people,” warned Wahlström.
“The repetitive floods in the United Kingdom and unusual snow storms in Mexico are alerting the world about how difficult it is to predict global warming impacts and climate change.”
Preventative measures mentioned by UN officials include upgrading early warning systems, revising building codes to make critical infrastructure more resilient and more investment in flood defences.
Increased urbanisation is also putting more people at risk of weather-related disasters, such as the last weekend’s tornadoes and storms, which killed more than 20 people in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois and flattened hundreds of buildings and houses.
“Reducing the spatial density of single family housing and increasing the resilience of houses against heavier wind load can reduce tornado impacts,” said Wahlström.