UNISDR chief compares typhoon damage in Mindanao to Japanese tsunami

Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction Margareta Wahlstrom meets with Iligan Mayor Lawrence Lluch Cruz on her three-day visit to the Philippines. (Photo: Jerry Velasquez)
MANILA/GENEVA, 27 January 2012 - The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, met today with the Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Albert F. Del Rosario, following a three-day visit to the typhoon-devastated coastal cities of Iligan and Cayagan de Oro in Mindanao.

Ms. Wahlström told Secretary Del Rosario: "What I have seen in Kalakala in Cagayan de Oro reminds me of the impacts made by major tsunamis such as the one which hit Japan last year or the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. In Kalakala you really feel the magnitude of the disaster and the force of the water which took so many lives, uprooted trees and swept away houses."

She discussed with Secretary Del Rosario the need for social mobilisation to be linked to early flood warnings to ensure timely evacuations. They also discussed the combination of environmental factors which contributed to the disaster including illegal logging; the need to develop risk-sensitive comprehensive land use plans and the need for greater cooperation between the public and private sectors to reduce risk.

Typhoon Sendong claimed 1,430 lives after it struck in the middle of the night on December 16, making it the second most deadly disaster of the last twelve months. The Philippines topped the disaster league table last year with 33 major reported events, twelve more than China, and affecting 12.5% of the population.

Special Representative Wahlström said: "The Philippines has a very sophisticated disaster response system and it has the capacity to be a world-leader in disaster risk reduction. I am confident the government will act on the lessons learned from Typhoon Sendong to ensure better coordination and improved dissemination of early warnings as well as implementing existing legislation on land use and deforestation. The UN system will be fully engaged in helping the country in the recovery phase."

Ms. Wahlström who also heads UNISDR, the UN office for disaster risk reduction, met with representatives of UN agencies, NGOs, churches and 20 local mayors during her field trip.
Regional Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction take place from Africa to the Pacific Regional Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction take place from Africa to the Pacific.
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