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Climate change means learning to live with floods, tsunamis

NIJMEGEN, The Netherlands (AFP) May 27, 2005
Dikes and dams will not be enough to stop the deluge. With climate change, people will have to learn to live with floods and tidal waves, scientists at an international conference said Friday.

"We have gone from the point of defending ourselves from flooding to managing floods and learning to live with them," said Eelco van Beek, who was among the 300 experts attending a conference in the Dutch city of Nijmegen.

During the past two years, more than 600 floods have been recorded in the world, causing the deaths of 19,000 people and damage valued at about 25 billion dollars (20 billion euros).

The figures do not include the deaths of some 273,000 people when a tsunami hit the countries bordering the Indian Ocean last December.

The conference in the Netherlands brought together scientists and humanitarian specialists to try to find ways of handling inundations, whether from the sea or rivers.

"It is time to say good-bye to the traditional approach of making ever higher dikes and ever stronger pumps," said Melanie Schultz van Haegen, the Dutch state secretary for water management.

A purely defensive strategy is "untenable, especially because of the difficulty of defending against the consequences of climate change," she said.