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BANGKOK (Nov. 12, 2002 - UNIS/PINA Nius Online)---Harnessing modern technology could save lives in disasters and limit property damage, an Asia-Pacific workshop on the Use of Space Technology for Disaster Management heard.

"Many lives could be saved and tragedy mitigated, if effective disaster management measures are undertaken," said United Nations Under-Secretary General and UNESCAP Executive Secretary Kim Hak-Su.

The five-day workshop is co-organized by UNESCAP (the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

Experts are sharing their knowledge and experience in using space and satellite technology to prepare for and respond to natural and manmade disasters.

The workshop has attracted 130 participants from 32 countries. A number of representatives from other United Nations bodies, intergovernmental organizations and various national and regional institutions are also attending.

Speaking on behalf of Sergio Camacho-Lara, of the U.N. Office of Outer Space Affairs, a senior official of that office said: "We are here today because we are all aware of the devastating consequences that disasters have on society, both in terms of human life and economic development."

During the period January to September 2002, natural catastrophes in the world have cost countries and communities an estimated $56 billion dollars.

The Asia-Pacific region has been one of the worst hit in terms of natural disasters, accounting for 50 percent of the world's major emergencies.

During the last five months, more than 20 countries in this region have endured serious flooding, resulting in the deaths of 2,300 people, and forcing 16 million people from their homes.

In Thailand alone, the floods affected 7 million acres of farmland and 80,000 people needed treatment for water-borne, flood related illnesses, according to Pinij Jarusombat, minister of Science and Technology of the Royal Thai government.

UNESCAP recently established a new Information, Communication and Space Technology Division.

The secretariat has also been active, in cooperation with the World Meteorology Organization (WMO), in successfully promoting the establishment of the Typhoon Committee and the UNESCAP/WMO Panel on Tropical Cyclones.

The Commission's overall program of work focuses on three thematic areas: poverty alleviation, managing globalization and addressing emerging social issues.

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