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UN: Weather catastrophes 'have killed 600,000 in 20 years'

The average number of weather disasters per year has risen drastically in past decades, the UN says, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths. It again called for a landmark deal at upcoming climate talks in Paris.

The number of floods, storms and other extreme weather events experienced annually on average has risen almost twofold compared with the decade from 1985-1994, a report from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said on Monday.

It said the number of weather catastrophes increased by 14 percent between 2005 and 2014 when compared to the previous decade, with an annual average of 335 floods, droughts, heatwaves and other such events.

Some 606,000 people have died and 4.1 billion have been injured, become homeless or been put in need of help since 1995, when the first annual UN Climate Change Conference (COP1) took place.

More than half of the weather-related deaths have occurred in Asia, with 75 percent of the people negatively affected by the disasters living in either China or India, according to the report. Bangladesh and the Philippines were the other two Asian countries bearing the brunt of extreme weather events, while Brazil headed the list in the Americas and Kenya was the most-affected country in Africa.

The report said flooding accounted for 47 percent of all weather catastrophes over the past 20 years.

Clear climate change link

The report said that although scientists could not say how much of the rise in weather-related disasters was the result of climate change, there was a clear link between between changing climate and extreme weather phenomena.

"The contents of this report underline why it is so important that a new climate change agreement emerges from the COP21 in Paris," said UNISDR chief Margareta Wahlstrom.

The COP21 meeting, which opens on November 30, will bring together representatives of 195 nations with the aim of hammering out an international pact on curbing the greenhouse emissions that are blamed for causing dangerous levels of climate change.

tj/msh (dpa, AFP)

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