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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Natural disasters 'on the rise'
Woman shelters on Grenada during Hurricane Ivan
Hurricanes are hitting bigger towns and cities
More and more people are being caught up in a growing number of natural disasters, a UN agency said on Friday.

The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction said the increase in numbers vulnerable to natural shocks was due partly to global warming.

It said 254 million people were affected by natural hazards last year - nearly three times as many as in 1990.

The assessment comes as the Caribbean and the US are being hit by a series of devastating hurricanes.

Drawn to danger zones

Events including earthquakes and volcanoes, floods and droughts, storms, fires and landslides killed about 83,000 people in 2003, up from about 53,000 deaths 13 years earlier, the ISDR said.

Deaths from natural disasters: 83,000 in 2003; 53,000 in 1990
Natural disasters: 337 in 2003; 261 in 1990
Risk factors: city growth, climate change, environmental degradation

Releasing its statistics jointly with the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (Cred) at the University of Louvain in Belgium, it said there was a consistent trend over the last decade of an increasing number of people affected by disasters.

There were 337 natural disasters reported in 2003, up from 261 in 1990.

"Not only is the world globally facing more potential disasters but increasing numbers of people are becoming vulnerable to hazards," the ISDR said.

The problems, it said, are exacerbated because more and more people are living in concentrated urban areas and in slums with poor building standards and a lack of facilities.

ISDR director Salvano Briceno added that urban migrants tended to settle on exposed stretches of land either on seismic faults, flooding plains or on landslide-prone slopes.

"The urban concentration, the effects of climate change and the environmental degradation are greatly increasing vulnerability," he said.

"Alarmingly, this is getting worse."

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