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Wednesday, December 31, 1997 Published at 21:11 GMT

Special Report

Disasters raise environmental fears

Environmental disasters in Europe, Africa and Asia this year highlighted continuing concerns with climate change, the consequences of global warming and the future of the world's natural resources.

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There were devastating forest fires in Indonesia, which at times during the late summer and autumn spread a deadly blanket of haze over vast areas of South East Asia.

In central Europe too there was an environmental crisis when floods - the worst for many decades - hit Poland, eastern Germany and the Czech Republic, causing homelessness to thousands, considerable loss of life and great financial hardship.

Flooding also hit Somalia. Many homes and an enormous amount of livestock were destroyed, particularly in the south-west of the country.

El Nino

El Nino - a warming of the eastern Pacific - is set to make 1997 the warmest year on record. By triggering floods and drought conditions across the southern hemisphere, it has given a real foretaste of what climate change can be like.

Governments in Zambia, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda imposed food export bans either as a consequence of too much rain or not enough.

In Asia, China was hit by its worst drought in 20 years. Lack of rainfall has also affected the northern Caribbean, and parts of Latin America have experienced severe climatic conditions.

The problem was discussed at the United Nations conference on global warming in Kyoto, Japan, in December. But there was disagreement on what should be done.

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