December 6, 2007

Here Comes the Flood

Heavy weather the world over is raising concerns about the potential of a flood-prone future, and what that means for vulnerable populations.

In the U.S. Pacific Northwest, 24-foot waves closed shipping channels, and 13 inches of rain in one 30-hour period shut down commerce, damaged streets and highways, and brought down trees and power lines, reports Bloomberg.com.

Five days of continuous rain have had a catastrophic effect in Algeria, causing a house and a bridge to collapse as rivers burst their banks and floodwaters surged through suburban Algiers. At least eleven lives were lost, reports Agence France-Presse.

Meanwhile, a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that 40 million people worldwide are vulnerable to similar catastrophes, as storms and rising oceans threaten 136 port cities around the world.

By 2070, the number of people at risk are predicted to grow to approximately 150 million.

Cities on river deltas, 38 percent of which are in Asia, were cited as especially vulnerable. This includes Osaka-Kobe, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Ho Chi Minh City.

But Western cities and metropolitan areas, such as New Orleans, New York City, Miami, Tampa-St. Petersburg, as well as Amsterdam, are also on the list.

In Africa, disaster preparation will be taking a step forward with the expansion of satellite-based weather monitoring, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

The Group on Earth Observation, a 72-nation cooperative, meet on November 30 to seal an agreement that will provide monitoring of extreme weather conditions in Africa.

This includes sharing satellite data and computer models that forecast up to three months into the future, and can also track potential disease conditions, air quality and population changes.

According to the Monitor, a “cold-war style competition for African hearts and minds” may be in the works, as Brazil and China ramp up a competing planetary observation service, the results of which will also be provided to African nations for free.

— Josh Wilson/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“U.S. Northwest Floods Snarl Roads, Rails and Shipping”
Bloomberg, December 5, 2007

“Flooding in Algeria kills at least 11 after days of rain”
Agence France-Presse, November 29, 2007

“Major Asian cities face risk of catastrophic floods”
Agence France-Presse, December 5, 2007

“A plan for monitoring Africa’s weather”
Christian Science Monitor, December 5, 2007

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