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UN Official: Weather Disasters Occurring More Frequently

FILE - Margareta Wahlstrom, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for disaster risk reduction, speaks to reporters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, April 25, 2012.

A U.N. official said Tuesday that countries are better prepared today for the kinds of huge storms that typically used to happen every 100 years, but those freak environmental events are now occurring more like every 20 years.

The top official on natural disasters at the United Nations, Margareta Wahlstrom, told The New York Times, “Everywhere, things are going on that didn’t go on 10 years ago.” Every country, she said, needs to be taking precautions.

Her comments came nearly 10 years after the December 26, 2004, tsunami in the Indian Ocean. That tragic event killed at least 220,000 and caused billions of dollars in damage, but it led to a tsunami warning system that now provides alerts through three regional watch centers in India, Indonesia and Australia.

The Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Belgium said that between 1983 and 1992, there were 147 climate, water and weather disasters each year, on average.

However, the research institution said that over the past 10 years, that number has more than doubled to an average of 306 per year.

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