06 Jun 2010 SYDNEY — Weather-related catastrophes brought about by climate change are increasing, the top UN humanitarian official said Sunday as he warned of the possibility of “mega-disasters”.
John Holmes, the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, said one of the biggest challenges facing the aid community was the problems stemming from changing weather patterns. “When it comes meteorological disasters, weather-related disasters, then there is a trend upwards connected with climate change,” Holmes, who is in Australia for high-level talks on humanitarian aid, told AFP.
“The trend is there is terms of floods, and cyclones, and droughts.” Holmes, who is the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, said it had been a tough year due to January’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, which killed more than 250,000 people. He said while earthquakes, such as the 7.0-magnitude quake which levelled the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, were random, weather-related natural disasters were increasing in number and scale.
“It’s partly the very obvious things like the number of cyclones and the intensity of the cyclones, and the amount of flooding,” he said. “But is also in slightly more invisible ways — in Africa with drought spreading, desertification spreading.
” Holmes said officials were particularly concerned about places where a combination of factors — such as large populations, or likelihood of earthquake, or susceptibility to rising sea levels — made them more vulnerable. “One of things we worry about is mega cities could produce, at some point, a mega disaster,” he said. “Cities like Kathmandu for example, which sits on two earthquake faults, where a large earthquake will come along… and the results could be catastrophic.”