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Wednesday, March 4, 1998 Published at 15:34 GMT

World: Americas

They called the wind Al Nino
image: [ El Niño caused flooding in the United States and other countries ]
El Niño caused flooding in the United States and other countries

Everybody gets the blame from time to time for something trivial: squeezing the toothpaste from the middle of the tube or eating the last biscuit in the tin.

But a retired naval pilot from Nipomo in California is being accused of the greatest feat of global manipulation ever. And all because his name is Al Nino.

Alponso Nino speaks to Jim Naughtie on the BBC's Today programme(2'15")
El Niño is a climatic phenomenon which has produced floods, tornadoes and, according to some scientists, has prolonged the fires that have devastated south-east Asia in the last year.

And Alphonso Nino, to give him his correct first name, has been deluged with telephone calls accusing him of being the cause of all the climatic trouble.

Speaking to the BBC Radio Four's Today programme, Mr Nino said he has been blamed for torrential rain and a farmer's failing strawberry crop and one man even accused Mr Nino of causing his daughter to lose her virginity (though it is not clear what the weather might have had to do with that). Needless to say Al had never met the woman in question.

[ image: El Niño is thought to be responsible for the smogs in south-east Asia]
El Niño is thought to be responsible for the smogs in south-east Asia
Mr Nino has taken a diplomatic approach to the public vitriol against him and says he tries to deal with the calls with good humour.

"Some of them absolutely curse me out and others just ask me, in a rather grudged way if I can just stop the rain."

"I told one man who'd called me to ask me to stop the rain, that I'd stop it for him. He called me three days later to thank me for making the rain stop."

Mr Nino is listed in the phone book as, Nino, Al, (he's the only Nino in the book) but he says he won't change his listing to stop the calls.

"I've rather enjoyed it, I'm thick skinned ... I'm an old Navy man so I like to trade barbs with the people that call."

Mr Nino says he does not like some of the more abusive calls he gets and would like those to stop. However, he's hoping that when the weather improves, he'll finally start getting some credit.

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