Virus-hit Asian nations brace for double disasters as extreme weather looms
ROME: Countries from India to the Philippines, already struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, are likely to also battle weather-related crises, from heat waves to cyclones, in coming months, disaster experts warned Thursday.
In India - currently under lockdown with more than 12,000 confirmed cases of the virus - the cyclone season starts in two weeks, said Kamal Kishore, a member of the country’s National Disaster Management Authority.
To try to maintain social distancing requirements, India would need to double the space available to shelter people from extreme weather, he said in a webinar organised by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
That means schools and colleges currently closed by the virus outbreak, as well as other buildings, may need to be turned into shelter sites, he said.
May and June are also the hottest months for India and Pakistan. People without adequate access to cooling or sufficient water could face health risks, particularly during the lockdown, scientists warned.
An intense heat wave last May and June caused widespread deaths across India.
With hospitals already filling with COVID-19 patients this year, “we really have to work doubly hard this year to make sure that we minimise the heat-wave-related burden on hospitals,” said Kishore.
Meanwhile in Vanuatu, around 160,000 people are in need of assistance after Cyclone Harold tore through South Pacific islands last week, said Sanaka Samarasinha, U.N. resident coordinator in Fiji.
“Crops have been all but destroyed,” he said. If a new season of crops isn’t quickly planted, “we will be looking at food insecurity for quite some time”, he warned.
The disaster forced the government to announce a second state of emergency on April 11, after an earlier one banned mass gatherings as a result of coronavirus fears.
Vanuatu has said it has no confirmed cases of the virus as of April 15.
Islands in the North Pacific, meanwhile, may have to contend with drought-like conditions as well as the virus, said Lemau Afamasaga from the Palau Red Cross Society. - Reuters