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Warning of five big urban disasters

The world should be braced to expect three to five big urban disasters in the next 10 years, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has warned.

It said preparation for these disasters is needed now and revealed that the catastrophes aid workers feared most are earthquakes affecting the large cities of Tehran in Iran, Istanbul in Turkey or Kathmandu in Nepal.

The report was commissioned following the devastation caused in the Haiti earthquake last year which killed more than 300,000 people.

Working closely with local traders, businesses, communities and government following such disasters is particularly important, the report said.

It also suggested prioritising support for permanent resettlement in existing neighbourhoods, rather than focusing on working in camps or providing temporary shelter. The 950 million people now living in urban slums would be particularly vulnerable during any disaster.

The DEC said the report's conclusion, which suggested greater emphasis should be placed on longer term ways of working, presented potentially tough choices for aid workers.

These could involve withdrawing free aid to temporary camps sooner after an urban disaster in order to work with local businesses to provide services and support that would speed up the safe return of survivors to their old neighbourhoods.

DEC chief executive Brendan Gormley said: "The Haiti earthquake presented our member agencies with one of the greatest challenges I have seen in my 30 years as a humanitarian. The UK public can be proud of the aid their generosity has helped deliver.

"Our member agencies are committed to continuous improvement and this means asking ourselves hard questions about the tough choices we face during an emergency.

"It is challenging to be told that after an urban disaster we may need to give away fewer goods and services, while doing more to support entrepreneurial and market solutions but this is not a conclusion we can afford to ignore."


From Belfast Telegraph