The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) says the experience of Europe’s big cities this winter shows that the world may be under-prepared to deal with less predictable climate patterns.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, said: “National meteorological services in Europe did well to issue warnings, but being prepared goes beyond prediction.

“A complete and effective early warning system also requires planners to understand the risks they face, so that they are able to respond appropriately.”

In parts of France and the UK, heavy snow left commuters stranded in their cars for hours. Between 10 and 20 cm of snowfall brought airports to a standstill in many cities, including Geneva, Paris, London and Berlin. Throughout Europe, thousands of households suffered power outages after the first snowfall.

Ms. Wahlström said warnings issued by local Met offices only complement a local disaster preparedness strategy and a better understanding of the risks is needed.

She said: “We are encouraging local authorities to recognize the risks unique to their community.

“We recognize that local governments are at the frontline when disasters strike. They are the ones who must set a budget, outline roles and responsibilities and conduct risk assessments.”

The UNISDR and its partners launched a campaign in May called ‘Making Cities Resilient’ and plans to convene an international conference in Geneva in May on increasing investment for local resilience.

Meanwhile the freezing weather continues across the UK with heavy snow forecast.

Alison Brown

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