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Asian Floods Australia Drought Food Losses*
August 10, 2002
Floods Hit China, Korea as Asia Braces for El Nino
Filed at 4:42 a.m. ET
BEIJING (Reuters) - Torrential rains triggered landslides and floods that have killed 70 people in southern China, and South Korea mobilized troops on Saturday to help cope with further downpours, as the approach of the El Nino weather pattern threatened to bring more severe conditions across Asia.
The floods in China's Hunan province were concentrated in the rice-growing southern region, some 250-370 miles north of Hong Kong, and were the worst since 1998, the China Daily quoted a provincial official as saying.
So far this year, around 900 people in China have been killed in seasonal floods.
In South Korea the death toll has hit 14 after a week of deluges dumped two-fifths of the average annual rainfall on the country, triggering flash floods and landslides.
On Saturday, four people were killed and seven injured in the southern port city of Pusan after a landslide engulfed a four-story building housing 250 disabled people.
The presidential Blue House said South Korea had mobilized 32,000 soldiers and 460 units with rescue gear to reduce damage, as forecasters said more rain was expected over the weekend.
FOOD-SHORT NORTH KOREA HIT
North Korea has also reported torrential rains that caused casualties and destroyed crops in the food-short communist state.
Europe has also been hit with unseasonal weather. The death toll from rainstorms and floods rose to 30 on Friday with scores missing and thousands stranded. Flooding in southern Russia has accounted for most of the victims.
El Nino, the global weather phenomenon blamed for a deadly drought in Southeast Asia five years ago, is back with a vengeance in Australia and is threatening other countries, Australian scientists say.
An existing drought in the region was made worse by the recurring weather condition, which authorities say set in July as Pacific sea temperatures warmed. The 2002/03 wheat crop forecast in Australia -- bread-basket for Asia and much of the Middle East -- has shrunk to 17 million tons from March estimates of 24 million tons.
The crop losses -- worth more than $795 million in export revenue -- are equivalent to the amount the island continent normally exports to Asia in a full year.
Southeast Asia, meanwhile, is bracing for deepening drought as scientists warn Papua New Guinea and more heavily-populated parts of the region are now coming into El Nino's sights.
Scientists surveyed by Reuters across Asia agreed that while the 2002 El Nino appeared weak, it had formed on top of drought conditions in various areas stretching from India to eastern Australia.
``It's like a double effect,'' Smith said.
India is suffering from an erratic monsoon, the lifeblood of its economy.
Over 700 people have died because of floods, disease and landslides and millions have been left homeless in eastern India, Nepal and Bangladesh since mid-July when heavy monsoon rains began, as health officials battle the spread of disease.
However, much of the rest of India is coping with the worst drought in a decade.
Scientists warn that what happens in India is often a precursor to what is likely to occur in Southeast Asia.
There are also signs of El Nino in Vietnam, where officials said the worst drought in 27 years in at least five central coastal provinces had ruined several thousand hectares of rice, while flooding in Mekong Delta rice fields was a consequence of general weather disruption.
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