Southeast Asia faces increasingly intense climate events - analysts

by Joseph D'Urso | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 1 April 2015 23:01 GMT

A giant Christmas lantern is seen in a devastated area of Magallanes town, Tacloban city, central Philippines December 22, 2013. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

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Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines particularly vulnerable

LONDON, April 2 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Densely populated Asian islands and countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines and those in Southeast Asia particularly are likely to face more intense climate events in future, analysts said on Thursday.

Islands are especially vulnerable when they have large populations and with much of their land exposed to storm surges and sea-level rises, according to research published by risk analysis group Verisk Maplecroft.

Researchers found that Taiwan, hit last year by Typhoon Matmo, was most at risk and stressed the need for all sectors to understand the extent of exposure to extreme events and long-term climate change in countries deemed most vulnerable.

"The potential impacts of climate change on physical structures, industrial processes, supply chains, and critical infrastructure are potentially devastating," researchers said in the report.

A study by the same firm last month found eight of the 10 cities most at risk from such events are in the Philippines which had "poor institutional and societal capacity to manage, respond and recover from natural hazard events".

Typhoon Haiyan killed 6,300 people in 2013 in the Philippines which is battered by more than 20 typhoons a year.

Nearly 20,000 people were killed by an earthquake and tsunami in Japan's main Honshu island in 2011.

"While uncertain, climate change projections suggest that the typhoons may be less frequent in the region, but become more intense," the group's new report said. The weather events known as El Nino and La Nina exacerbate this, the study said.

El Nino, the warming of Pacific Ocean surface temperatures which can cause drought in some parts of the world and flooding in others, and La Nina, an irregular event caused by cooling water temperatures, both threaten Southeast Asia, it said.

Droughts in the "extreme risk" Philippines, as well as in Indonesia, are "strongly related" to El Nino, the report said, blaming La Nina for flooding in the Philippines as well as in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The study tried to quantify the risk of a country being hit by extreme climate events such as droughts, wildfires, storms and floods, as well as the dangers posed by changing temperatures and sea levels.

China is "high risk" due to increased industrial, domestic and agricultural competition for water, and some northern parts of the country have already experienced reductions in rainfall, the study said.

Elsewhere in Asia, Bangladesh also ranked high on the list of places at risk. Cyclone Sidr in 2007 killed around 3,500 people in Bangladesh, while Cyclone Aila in 2009 killed more than 300 in Bangladesh and around 150 in India.

(Reporting by Joseph D'Urso; Editing by Tim Pearce)

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