Battered Asia faces more catastrophic storms

AS THE people of the flood-hit Indian state of Orissa and Vietnam count their dead this weekend, top scientists are warning that last week's catastrophic Asian inundations are only a foretaste of what is to come.

A new report by Britain's Meteorological Office, presented to key negotiations on tackling global warming in Bonn last week, warns that flooding will increase more than ninefold over the next decades. Four-fifths of the increase, the report adds, will be in south and south-east Asia, the very areas hit by floods last week. In both places, the death tolls are still increasing.

Officials say nearly 1,400 bodies have so far been recovered in Orissa, in eastern India, but the number is expected to increase sharply, as rescue workers have yet to reach the worst-hit areas. In Vietnam the official death toll stands at 416, but the waters are still rising in the worst floods for a century.

From the air yesterday, central Vietnam's ancient city of Hue and its surrounding areas looked like a shimmering patchwork of lakes, laced with strings of telephone poles. After the fiercest downpour ever recorded in the region, rice paddies had been turned into coffee-brown rivers, with only the rooftops of submerged homes breaking the surface of the waters. In Hue itself the Perfume River has broken its banks, cutting off the historic Citadel area, which can now only be reached by boat.

Relief workers were yesterday racing to take advantage of a brief lull in the storms to get emergency supplies to stranded people. With more rain forecast, they said most of the inhabitants of an entire region of seven million people face food shortages, lack of safe water, and disease.

The military has been mobilised to get some 8,400 tons of food to the flood victims before the rains resume. "We have got a window of opportunity to get this food and water out there," said Eelko Brouwer, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Vietnam's deputy prime minister, Pham Gia Khiem, added that 900,000 people in the province of Thua Thien-Hue were living in the open and had eaten no rice in three days.

Meanwhile, malnutrition and disease is spreading through Orissa, hit by a violent cyclone nine days ago. "There are a large number of gastroenteric cases," the state's principal health secretary, Meena Gupta, said yesterday. "People who have not eaten anything for the past eight days are drinking the contaminated water, and this could cause further problems."

The authorities have started air-dropping medicines to cut-off areas, with instructions on how to use them. Half of the 15 million people hit by the floods have yet to be reached, officials said. In many areas the air is filled with the stench of bloated corpses and the rotting carcasses of cattle.

"It will be weeks before the debris and waste can be really cleared up," said one state official. "By that time epidemics are inevitable."

Yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, warned that the floods were just one more sign that global warming was on its way. He is worried that progress is too slow towards finalising the treaty agreed in Kyoto two years ago to cut emissions of the pollution that causes climate change, and fears that unless it speeds up the agreement could fail.

The Meteorological Office's report spells out the consequences of failure, as global warming causes sea levels to rise and increases the likelihood of violent storms of the type that devastated Orissa and Vietnam. It says that at present some 10 million people are flooded each year, and that this will rise to 94 million if emissions of carbon dioxide and the other gases that cause global warming continue unchecked. Three-fifths of these people will live in south Asia and another fifth in south-east Asia.

The report adds that the number of victims - though still very much more than now - would fall to between 19 and 34 million each year, if the world took strong measures to stop the pollution building up in the atmosphere.

Floods are already increasing worldwide, with last week's inundations just the latest tragedies in what has been a terrible two years.

Last year was the worst on record, with 96 floods in 55 countries, including the worst around China's Yangtse River in half a century, and the most long-lasting on record in Bangladesh.

This year Bangladesh was hit again, with over two million people affected. On average catastrophic floods are hitting the country every two or three years - partly because of the cutting down of forests in the Himalayas - compared with once every half century when the environment was largely undisturbed.

In all, the number of disasters worldwide has risen threefold in the last 10 years - ironically designated by the United Nations as the International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction - and their cost, even allowing for inflation, has soared ninefold.

Britain's Disasters Emergency Committee, representing 11 charities, is to launch an appeal for the victims of Orissa on Tuesday.

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories