In recent decades we have observed, despite significant progress made in science and technology, steadily increasing vulnerability of human society to the impact of natural disasters. The United Nations International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction, aimed at stopping and reversing this trend during the 1990's, had clearly stated in its initial programmatic documents that this alarming trend was not so much due to the lack of academic knowledge or technological know-how but rather to uneven worldwide availability and insufficient broad application of this know-how in the daily life of society, economy, planning, and decision-making. This state of affairs is particularly...

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