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Millions at risk from Med tsunami: report

Millions of people living and holidaying along the Mediterranean coast are at risk of being hit with a tsunami, a new report warns.

The World Disasters Report, by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said there is no tsunami early-warning alert system for the region, even though it is considered to be more vulnerable than the Indian Ocean.

More than 300,000 people were killed when a tsunami struck Indonesia and southern Thailand in December 2004.

Disaster expert, Peter Rees-Gildea, said the perception that climate change is a Third World problem is changing since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and flooding caused chaos Gloucester in Britain.

"If you look at population density along the Mediterranean coast and the topography and what could happen with a major tsunami, the figures are self-evident," he said.

"It would be absolutely catastrophic.

"Why we do not have an early warning system I do not understand. This is a real serious problem where millions of lives could be lost."

David Andrews, chair of the Irish Red Cross, said Ireland was not immune to the affects of climate change.

He revealed up to 6,000 trained and highly skilled Red Cross members are on standby to support the HSE and other agencies to deal with disasters such as a flu pandemic or flooding.

"Over a period of years, we have seen hundreds of people forced out of their homes as a result of floods," said Mr Andrews.

"The Irish Red Cross is a key player, at the request of the Government, in developing community resilience throughout Ireland to such disasters."

The Red Cross said 2008 was the second deadliest in terms of disasters after the Indian Ocean tsunami, with 138,336 people killed or presumed dead after Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (Burma), while a further 87,476 died in the Sichuan earthquake in China.

Millions more were also affected by flooding and drought.

Funds raised by the Irish Red Cross helped support victims of disasters in Myanmar, China, Bangladesh, and across Africa.

Mr Rees-Gildea called on governments to wake-up and take action before disasters strike, by donating cash to preventative measures which would save money in the long term.

Launching the world disasters report, Minister for State for Overseas Development, Peter Power, said any cuts to the Irish Aid budget in December will be made to protect longer-term interest of the country and Irish people.

"We have a very strong moral obligation to help those who are on the very margins on society," said Mr Power.

"I believe there is still a wealth of goodwill among Irish people to promote international aid and development."

Belfast Telegraph


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