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China's freak snowstorms: 'the new normal'?

A swimmer walks through snow near a stranded ship on the banks of the Yangtze River in Wuhan, China, on January 27, 2008


Photos from National Geographic
The UNPRECEDENTED SCALE, COST, AND HUMAN IMPACTS of China's FREAK MONTH of snowstorms, its worst in 50 years, herald a need for the world to get ready for 'new kinds of disasters,' according to the Director of the secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. 'So-called 'freak weather' is becoming more common and reducing vulnerability to these unexpected extremes must be a top priority for governments.' It is estimated that over 100 million people throughout China have been directly affected by the weather, such as through loss of power and water – equivalent to at least the population of the United Kingdom and South Africa combined. The UN/ISDR secretariat emphasized the growing importance of ensuring infrastructure can withstand WEATHER THAT WAS PREVIOUSLY UNTHINKABLE. When billions of dollars in potential losses are balanced against the low costs of prevention in the future, the choice should be clear. China's snow disaster cut across all sectors – power and water lifelines, communications, air, land and sea transport, agriculture, and the financial markets. Governments should learn from the shock of new types of disasters, and need to start examining how to best adapt to unpredictable, 'freak' conditions that may sadly become all too normal.'
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