UN: Losses from natural disasters surge over last 20 years

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(AP Photo/Dita Alangkara). A young man stands near a boat swept ashore by the tsunami in Wani village on the outskirt of Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. A 7.5 magnitude earthquake rocked Central Sulawesi province on Sept. 2... (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara). A young man stands near a boat swept ashore by the tsunami in Wani village on the outskirt of Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. A 7.5 magnitude earthquake rocked Central Sulawesi province on Sept. 2...
(AP Foto/Dita Alangkara). Una mujer de pie entre los escombros de viviendas cerca de un barco arrastrado tierra adentro por un tsunami, en la localidad de Wani, a las afueras de la ciudad de Palu, en el centro de la isla indonesia de Célebes, el 10 de ... (AP Foto/Dita Alangkara). Una mujer de pie entre los escombros de viviendas cerca de un barco arrastrado tierra adentro por un tsunami, en la localidad de Wani, a las afueras de la ciudad de Palu, en el centro de la isla indonesia de Célebes, el 10 de ...

GENEVA (AP) - The U.N. office for disaster risk reduction said Wednesday that worldwide reported economic losses from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, hurricanes and other climate-related disasters surged to total nearly $2.9 trillion over the past 20 years.

UNISDR, as the office is known, said the reported loss of resources and assets like homes, factories and farms due to more frequent and widespread climate-related disasters rose 151 percent compared to the previous 20-year period.

"There is a very sharp increase in the number of climate-related events, which are actually creating 77 percent of the total direct economic losses caused by disasters," said Ricardo Mena, a UNISDR official. "This is really very alarming information."

Climate-related disasters - such as from the impact of floods, droughts, and heat waves - accounted for $2.25 trillion of the total. That was up from $895 billion reported between 1978 and 1997.

The rest of the total came primarily from tsunamis and earthquakes - so-called geophysical disasters.

The U.S. topped the list at over $944 billion, nearly twice the figure from China, in second. Japan, India and Puerto Rico completed the top five.

The report came as the southeastern United States appeared to face another possible disaster as Hurricane Michael barreled toward the region from the Gulf of Mexico.

The agency cautioned Wednesday that the 1998-2017 figures rely on official reports, so more economically powerful countries are generally overrepresented. Insurance is less widespread in developing countries.

UNISDR's tally is based on confirmed documentation, meaning the $2.9 trillion is likely only a fraction of actual losses.

___

This version corrects that the increase in climate-related disaster loss over the past 20 years, as compared to the previous 20-year period, is 151 percent, not 251 percent.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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