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Pacific leaders prepare for more extreme weather events

Barbara Dreaver

Published: 7:05PM Saturday July 13, 2013 Source: ONE News

Pacific leaders are working to be more prepared for disasters, after a year of wild weather events.

In the past year there has been flooding in Fiji, a cyclone in Samoa, an earthquake and tsunami in the Solomon Islands and months of drought in the Marshall Islands - and research shows it is not going to get better.

The World Meteorological Organisation has released a report showing the world has experienced unprecedented high impact climate extremes in the past decade.

"We know from the scientists that the intensity of these cyclones are going to increase over time," said David Sheppard from the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

Not content to sit back and let it happen, Pacific leaders have vowed to combine resources for climate change and disaster management.

"Neither disasters or climate change is a thing for the future, it's an issue for today and tomorrow - the fact we learn so slowly," said the UN's Margereta Wahlstrom.

"We are paying for it," she said.

Two recent floods and a cyclone have cost Fiji more than $130 million in direct damage.

Officials across many ministries are working closely with people who live in high risk areas, advising them on things from evacuation plans to the best planting to prevent soil collapse.

"When you look at it regionally or globally, it's cutting edge stuff," said Jimmie Rodgers of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

World Bank estimates every dollar invested in risk reduction saves at least five in the response. And first response to Pacific disasters usually comes from New Zealand.

"It's very cost effective to invest up front to start building fences up at the top of the cliff instead of providing ambulance at the bottom," said Ministry of Foreign Affairs' NZ Aid manager Michael Hartfield.

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