Margareta Wahlstr?m, Assistant Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

The head of the United Nations office dedicated to disaster risk reduction wrapped up her visit to the Philippines today by comparing the damage caused by Typhoon Sendong to that of major tsunamis such as the one that struck Japan last year.

Typhoon Sendong claimed 1,430 lives after it struck in the middle of the night on 16 December, making it the second most deadly disaster of the last 12 months, according to a news release issued by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).

The Philippines topped the disaster league table last year with 33 major reported events, affecting 12.5 per cent of the population, added the office, whose chief, Margareta Wahlstr?m, visited the typhoon-devastated coastal cities of Iligan and Cayagan de Oro in Mindanao this week.

?What I have seen in Kalakala in Cagayan de Oro reminds me of the impacts made by major tsunamis such as the one which hit Japan last year or the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. In Kalakala you really feel the magnitude of the disaster and the force of the water which took so many lives, uprooted trees and swept away houses,? she told Foreign Minister Albert F. Del Rosario today.

Ms. Wahlstr?m, the Secretary General?s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Foreign Minister discussed the need for social mobilization to be linked to early flood warnings to ensure timely evacuations.

They also discussed the combination of environmental factors which contributed to the disaster, including illegal logging; the need to develop risk-sensitive comprehensive land use plans; and the need for greater cooperation between the public and private sectors to reduce risk.

?The Philippines has a very sophisticated disaster response system and it has the capacity to be a world leader in disaster risk reduction,? said Ms. Wahlstr?m, who met with representatives of UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), churches and 20 local mayors during her visit.

?I am confident the Government will act on the lessons learned from Typhoon Sendong to ensure better coordination and improved dissemination of early warnings as well as implementing existing legislation on land use and deforestation,? she added. ?The UN system will be fully engaged in helping the country in the recovery phase.?

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