Warning of destructive floods as Danube thaw sets in, UN urges better response
Destructive floods caused by the rapid thawing of the Danube River could add to the fatalities from an already harsh European winter, the head of the United Nations agency dealing with disaster risk reduction warned today.
In a statement, Margareta Wahlström, the head of the secretariat of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), voiced concern for the consequences faced by those countries traversed by the Danube, whose sudden thaw is taking many by surprise.
“The thaw is now setting in along the Danube. While thousands of people remain snowbound from Serbia to Bulgaria, there are warning signs that destructive floods will add to the loss of life and economic assets particularly in places where there is an absence of flood management infrastructure such as dams and dikes,” Ms. Wahlström stated.
According to media reports, the quick thawing of Europe’s second longest river has sent massive ice floes careening into boats and bridges, causing widespread damage to river vessels. The cold front had previously frozen large tracts of the waterway, making it unnavigable in areas of Germany and the Balkans.
“This severe winter in which hundreds of people have died has highlighted several weaknesses in our built environment and our ability to prepare for worst¬¬–case scenarios,” Ms. Wahlström said. “Vulnerable communities across Europe have been cut off from transport, schools, health facilities and electricity in many cases.”
The cold spell which has paralyzed much of Europe also reportedly killed more than 300 people in Ukraine, Poland, France and Italy as extremely low temperatures and substantial snowfalls blanketed the continent.
Ms. Wahlström commended Bulgaria’s decision to inspect over 500 dams throughout the country and to release the water from some dams and reservoirs to contain the Danube’s eventual floodwaters.
However, she also urged governments to undertake better planning for the possibility of future extreme winter weather patterns
“The unpredictability of severe weather events leads to high human and financial costs,” she added. “More focus on winterisation planning will be a wise investment in the coming years.”Back to Top
UN environment agency celebrates anniversary with star-filled races
Hundreds of runners took to the roads of Nairobi, Kenya, earlier today to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and raise awareness about green issues.
More than 200 runners competed in a half-marathon race and over 300 others took part in a five-kilometre fun run, the agency reported in a press release.
Many of the competitors in the half-marathon were elite runners in training for events such as the London Marathon in April and the Summer Olympics in August. Victor Kipchirchir won the race in a time of 1 hour and 27 seconds and Mercy Chemutai was the fastest woman with a time of 1:12:51.
In the five-kilometre race, dignitaries and officials from 150 countries attending a UNEP meeting this week in Nairobi were invited to run alongside such luminaries as Patrick Makau, the current world record holder in the marathon, and Paul Tergat, the former world record holder and an Ambassador Against Hunger for the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
“This is the ultimate opportunity for athletes to demonstrate their support for the work of the UN Environment Programme in protecting the environment for the past decades,” said Mr. Tergat, whose foundation co-organized the races with UNEP and Athletics Kenya.
“This is a landmark partnership between sports and the environment in which celebrities can use their iconic status for the cause of the environment, for which I have a personal passion and commitment.”
Amina Mohamed, UNEP’s deputy executive director, commended the participants in today’s races.
“We also thank the wider public for not only joining this event but also for showing commitment to continue supporting UNEP in its work to protect the environment,” she said.
Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41296&Cr=UNEP&Cr1=Back to Top