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November 13 2012, 6:59PM

Asia-Pacific countries must invest on improving their disaster preparedness amid the increasing frequency and severity of natural calamities in the region, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) says.

The Manila-based bank warned on Tuesday that the growing incidence and impact of such natural disasters as storms and floods could slash economic growth and derail poverty-reduction efforts in the region.

It noted that people living in Asia and the Pacific were now four times more likely to be struck by natural disasters than those living in Africa and 25 times more likely than those living in Europe or North America.

"Most of the large cities in the world classified as having extreme risks of climate vulnerability are in Asia, and the region faces expected annual disaster losses in excess of 19 billion dollars," the bank said in a study evaluating its response to disasters in the region.

Governments must place stronger focus on projects and programs that aim to boost disaster risk reduction, preparedness, climate change adaptation and mitigation measures, as well as efficient disaster recovery, it added.

"We have thought for too long that natural disasters come and go, that they are just an interruption to development and that they can be dealt with after they strike," said Vinod Thomas, director-general of the ADB's Independent Evaluation Department that conducted the study.

"However, there is growing international recognition that the incidence and impact of natural disasters are increasing because of persistent poverty, population growth and climate change," he added.

The study noted that the ADB has provided funding of $US10.37 billion ($A9.99 billion) for hundreds of natural disaster interventions from 1995 to 2011.

But it added that many of the projects had the limited objective of restoring particular types of infrastructure and the ADB must in the future also do more to rehabilitate livelihoods or increase disaster resilience.