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Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
El Nino blamed for weather chaos
Family in flooded street in north Vietnam
Vietnam has been hit by both floods and drought
The weather phenomenon El Nino is being blamed by scientists for the freak weather conditions which have caused chaos and many deaths around the world.

Damaged house on Black Sea coast
Floods in Russia have called devastation
More than 140 people have died in storms across Europe and Asia in the past few days.

But the US and parts of south-east Asia are seeing their worst droughts in many years.

El Nino is a warming of water temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean which has a knock-on effect on wind and rain.

When it last hit, four years ago, floods and drought devastated several developing countries in South America, Africa and East Asia.

Scientists in Australia say the effects of El Nino are already being felt there.

Although this year's cycle is not as strong as the last one, it is compounding Australia's existing drought, forcing crop forecasts to be slashed.

Europe

Rains have swept Europe in the past week, bringing misery to summer holiday-makers.

  • On Russia's Black Sea coast, up to 58 people have been killed and 1,500 evacuated in torrential rains and flooding
  • Seven people are reported killed in Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic as floods sweep across central and eastern Europe. Austria is suffering its worst floods in over a century.
  • In the UK, firefighters have evacuated flooded homes along the north-east cost of England
  • On the Italian holiday island of Capri, houses and a shopping centre have been engulfed in mud following torrential rains
  • The Spanish region of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands have also been experiencing downpours.

Asia

Scientists warn that what happens in India is often a foretaste of conditions elsewhere.

Farmer and cattle in Gujarat
India's drought could hint at things to come
The country has been experiencing extremes - some parts suffering under searing heat and droughts while others are being lashed by torrential rains.

Seven hundred people were killed in the rains, and millions left homeless across eastern India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Other parts of Asia are also affected.

  • In the past days, torrential rains causing landslides and floods have killed 70 people in southern China. Overall, 900 people have been killed in rains so far this year.
  • North and South Korea have also been affected. Fourteen people have been killed in the South, which reportedly saw two-fifths of its annual rainfall in a week.
  • Vietnam is experiencing one of the worst droughts in 27 years - only 25% of the annual rice crop has successfully been planted and in some places the figure is as low as 3%. In parts of the north, however, there have been floods.

Hotting up

Elsewhere, one of the worst droughts in the last 50 years is affecting the United States, with 26 states suffering severe drought. The wheat harvest is expected to be the lowest in 30 years.

Firefighter in Oregan
The US has been ravaged by forest fires
Fires have scorched the north-west, destroying 4.6m acres (1.9m hectares) of forest.

Southern Africa is already suffering from a severe drought which is causing the worst food crisis in the region for a decade.

Scientists say that as the planet continues to warm, these effects of El Nino will be felt more and more often.

See also:

11 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
10 Aug 02 | Europe
06 Aug 02 | South Asia
18 May 01 | Science/Nature
10 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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