Southeast Asian armed forces told to prepare for disasters

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HONOLULU: US officials on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) offered to help Southeast Asian countries prepare for the devastating effects of climate change, urging stronger cooperation among armies and emergency agencies.

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Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel and other top officials discussed the danger posed by rising global temperatures with defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Honolulu, home to a major US weather research center that tracks sea levels and tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean.

“The more we can understand the science behind these natural disasters the more we can coordinate and communicate our efforts to help each other,” Hagel told his counterparts from Asean.

Hagel said that cooperation among Asean militaries for humanitarian operations was steadily growing but that more collaboration was needed, as scientists predict more typhoons and other natural disasters will hit the region.

“We can do more. We will do more,” Hagel said.

The head of the US Agency for International Development, Rajiv Shah, told the ministers that a report this week from a United Nations expert panel on climate change made clear that erratic weather would “wreak havoc on societies all around the world.”

“What that report also high–lighted is that the Asia-Pacific is hit by more than 70 percent of all of these natural dis–asters,” Shah said.

“And so you bear a greater brunt of the burden of those consequences,” he added.

Shah said governments had to collaborate and rehearse for typhoons, flooding and other “extreme weather events” that are expected to become more frequent in coming decades.

The United States was “fully committed to working with and supporting you in this effort,” he said.

The ministers were given a tour of a new regional center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which houses scientists that track typhoons, tsunamis and rising sea levels across the Pacific.

AFP

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