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Half million die in decade of disasters in Asia Pacific – UN

BANGKOK (Reuters) – The Asia Pacific region, the most disaster-prone part of the world, suffered 1,625 disasters in the decade through 2014, and needs to spend more on adapting to climate change and preparing for more extreme weather, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The region’s disasters – 40 percent of the global total – claimed half a million lives over the decade, affected 1.4 billion people and caused $523 billion in economic damage, the 2015 U.N. Asia-Pacific Disaster Report said.

The world body urged the region’s governments to invest more in adapting to climate change and preparing for disasters as the risks the region faces are worsened by its rapid economic growth and mushrooming population.

“Building resilience is not a choice or luxury for us, but a compulsion,” Shamshad Akhtar, head of the U.N. regional development arm for Asia Pacific, said at the launch of the report in Bangkok.

“Investing in disaster risk reduction is of course proven effective. It’s a critical area, but at the same time it’s neglected.”

Some 772 million poor people in the region are particularly vulnerable to disasters and tend to live in low-value, hazard-prone areas such as urban slums, steep slopes, flood plains and riverbanks, the report said.

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