Asia worst hit from climate disasters in 2023: UN

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel rescue people from a flood-affected area, at Tamulpur village in Baksa Assam.

In 2023, Asia experienced the most disasters worldwide, with 79 events linked to extreme weather, climate, and water-related hazards affecting over nine million people and causing the direct deaths of over 2,000 individuals, as per a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Over 80% of these reported hazards in Asia were attributed to floods and storms.

The report revealed that over 60% of the 2,000 deaths were associated with flooding, while more than 15% were linked to storms. Storms impacted the largest number of people and caused the most significant economic damage during the year.

Although the number of reported disaster events in 2023 was slightly lower than in 2022, the impact was still substantial. For instance, in comparison to 2022 when floods in Pakistan alone affected over 30 million people, the overall impact in 2023 was lower but still significant. In India, extreme weather events including severe heatwaves, rainfall-induced floods, glacial lake outbursts, and tropical cyclones had a profound impact.

The report highlighted that Asia has been warming at a faster rate than the global average, with the warming trend nearly doubling since the 1961-1990 period. The escalating trend of climate change indicators such as rising surface temperatures, glacier retreat, and sea level rise will have profound consequences for Asia’s economy and ecosystems.

WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo emphasised the gravity of the report’s findings, stating that many countries in the region recorded their hottest year on record in 2023, coupled with a series of extreme weather conditions ranging from droughts and heatwaves to floods and storms. Climate change exacerbated the frequency and severity of these events, significantly impacting societies, economies, and the environment.

The report noted specific instances of severe heatwaves in April and June 2023, resulting in approximately 110 deaths due to heatstroke.

Regions like Ballia and Deoria districts in Uttar Pradesh, India, saw over 100 deaths, mostly among senior citizens with underlying health conditions, during temperatures ranging from 42-43 degrees Celsius.

A prolonged heatwave also affected Southeast Asia in April and May, extending into Bangladesh, eastern India, and parts of China. These findings underscore the urgent need for climate adaptation and mitigation efforts to address the escalating impacts of climate change in the Asia-Pacific region.

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