Tsunami caused 2004 natural disasters death toll to triple from previous year, Red Cross says

Last year's Indian Ocean tsunami caused the global death toll from natural disasters in 2004 to triple from the previous year to about a quarter of a million - the highest total in almost 30 years, the international Red Cross said Wednesday.

Discounting the devastating effects of the Dec. 26 tsunami, the 2004 total would have been more like 25,000 _ one of the lowest figures on record, the Red Cross said in its annual World Disasters Report.

The previous highest totals from natural disasters - excluding long-term events like famines - came in 1970 when about 500,000 people were killed when cyclone hit Bangladesh, and in 1976 when 240,000 died during an earthquake in Tangshan, China, said Sian Bowen, spokeswoman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, THE AP reports.

Many lives were saved by individual warning action before the tsunami but far more could have been rescued with efficient and widespread alerts, according to the report. AM

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