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Friday, February 6, 1998 Published at 09:55 GMT

image: [ BBC Despatches ]Enver Solomon

Government officials and some of the world's leading meteorologists have ended their first ever regional conference in the Thai capital, Bangkok, on the effects of El Nino in the Asia Pacific. The weather phenomenon is believed to have caused widespread drought in many parts of the region. As our correspondent, Enver Solomon reports from Bangkok, delegates at the conference agree that there should be greater regional co-ordination to strengthen government's capacity to respond to the climate change.

El Nino has brought drought and food shortages to many parts of the Asia Pacific region. The monsoon arrived late at the end of last year and when the rains came, they were insufficient.

Now it's feared that the dry season will be one of the worst for decades. Here in Thailand, the government says six-million people could face food shortages.

In the remote parts of Indonesia, there have already been reports of people dying from starvation. Experts attending the conference in Bangkok, predicted that the worst isn't over yet.

They say the El Nino phenomenon will leave the region starved of rain until May. This change in weather patterns caused by a warming of the Pacific Ocean happens every few years but the latest episode is believed to be one of the most severe this century.

Delegates at the conference agree that countries need to co-operate more closely to monitor the effects of El Nino. A special regional forum of climate experts will be set up to provide guidance.

It's hoped that, ultimately, governments will be better prepared to deal with the climate change but El Nino has come at a bad time for the region.

Many countries are struggling to deal with the fall-out of South East Asia's financial crisis. Resources are already stretched and governments are hard-pressed to provide the extra assistance to the farmers who are suffering from a lack of rainfall.

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