lunes, 30 de julio de 2007

Extreme weather brings flood chaos round the world

* 18:40 30 July 2007
* NewScientist.com news service
* New Scientist Environment and Reuters

People in countries across the world, from China to India and Sudan to Indonesia, are coping with severe wet weather, highlighting the position of flooding as the most deadly of all natural disasters.

While single events cannot be linked to climate change, the flooding come as research suggests that global warming will increase rainfall in some parts of the world, including the Indian monsoon, and increase the number of hurricanes – both due increased evaporation in a warmer world.

One person in 10 worldwide, including one in eight city-dwellers, lives less than 10 metres above sea-level and near the coast. This is an "at-risk zone" for flooding and stronger storms exacerbated by climate change, a recent study found.
China

Deaths from floods, lightning and landslides across the world's most populous nation this summer have reached nearly 700, Chinese state media said on Monday. One tenth of China's 1.3 billion people have been effected, and economic losses are estimated at 52.5 billion yuan ($7 billion).

In the last two days alone, fierce storms and hail killed 17 people across four provinces. Ten died in the central province of Hubei, where rain and hail have added to swollen waters along the country's longest river, the Yangtze (where flood warnings have been installed) and its main tributary, the Han. In the north-western province of Shaanxi, five died in floods that cut off roads around Shangluo.

A hail storm on Saturday hit parts of the eastern province Anhui, killing one person and injuring three. In the same region, millions of residents have been grappling with the threat of the swollen Huai River for the past month.

Farmers have borne the brunt of the damage and casualties, underscoring the vulnerability of the huge rural population to natural disasters. But coal miners in central China have also become victims of the storms. Sixty-nine miners in Henan have been trapped since Sunday in a pit flooded by rainwater that surged through an old shaft, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

Other parts of China are suffering meteorological misery of different kinds. More than a million people faced shortages of drinking water in several southern provinces as a heatwave compounded weeks of drought.

"The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are increasing. Records for worst-in-a-century rainstorms, droughts and heatwaves are being broken more often," said Dong Wenjie, director-general of the Beijing Climate Centre. "This, in fact, is closely associated with global warming."
India and Bangladesh

Monsoon flooding, which has proven difficult to predict in the past, has killed at least 29 people in eastern India and Bangladesh, officials said on Monday. Hundreds of thousands remained displaced from their homes or cut off in their villages.

Around four million people in India have been affected. In neighbouring Bangladesh, half a million people were stranded in their homes, while tens of thousands had found shelter in relief camps.

The floods in the low-lying nation now cover half its area (though less than in 2004), with soldiers in boats providing medicines and food to some marooned residents and evacuating others. The country's summer flood death toll has now crossed 160. The monsoon flooding and associated problems have also caused deaths in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal.
Indonesia

Indonesian helicopters dropped food and other relief supplies on Friday to thousands of people stranded on Sulawesi island by floods and landslides.

Bad weather had hampered relief operations in the remote area where about 85 people have died and nearly 8000 people have been displaced from homes submerged by floods and landslides.

Landslides occur frequently in Indonesia, where tropical downpours can quickly soak hillsides stripped of trees.
Sudan

More than 12,000 people have been affected by flooding in southern Sudan, a nation emerging from decades of civil war. Six of the region's 10 states have been declared a disaster zone by South Sudan's Vice President Riek Machar.

At least two people have been reported killed by the rains and flooding, said Lydia Poole, a UN emergency response official. Poole said the final figure of flood victims would likely be much higher.

In northern Sudan, the central government said 59 people had been killed and more than 100 injured in flash floods.
South Africa

Cape Town was struggling on Monday to cope with flooding that affected thousands of people, cut off roads, and forced shantytown residents to bale out water with buckets. Relief officials said 38,000 people have been affected since heavy rain began lashing the city a week ago.

City disaster management spokesman Johan Minnie said it was the highest number of people hit by flooding in five years: "We are stretched, especially in terms of supplying disaster relief. We are at capacity at the moment." He said the clean-up would concentrate on clearing debris from storm-water drains which have blocked roads.
UK

Emergency workers found a man's body in a submerged field on Saturday, bringing to at least nine the death toll in England's worst floods for 60 years.

Firefighters found the body near the historic market town of Tewkesbury, western England, where flooding has damaged thousands of homes and left many without running water.

The wettest summer since records began has brought two bouts of flooding across the country since the end of June, wrecking houses and businesses, delaying harvests and slashing milk production. The damage is estimated by insurance companies at up to £3 billion pounds ($6.10 billion).

Forecasters have issued severe weather warnings for much of southern England and Wales, with up to 40 millimetres (1.6 inches) of rain expected on Saturday night. However, the Environment Agency said the risk of flooding was "significantly lower" than from the earlier storms.


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