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IN THE NEWS - August 17, 2002: World Weather - 2002-08-16

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

Severe weather is affecting people in many countries. In areas of south and east Asia, about seven-hundred people have been killed in floods and resulting landslides during the past month. The hardest hit countries include North and South Korea, Vietnam, India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

In India, the flooding is the worst the country has experienced in twenty-five years. Areas in Assam and Bihar states have suffered from heavy rains and flooding. Twenty million people have been affected. Indian officials say more than three hundred people have died as a result of the weather conditions.

The number of dead in Nepal is even higher. More than four hundred people have been killed in floods and landslides in mountain villages there. Another one-hundred-fifty people have died in similar weather in Bangladesh. Flooding was also especially severe in China this year where about nine-hundred people have died.

Yet, there also are intensely dry conditions in parts of Asia. For example, although floods are affecting part of the Indian state of Bihar, the seasonal rains have not begun as expected in other areas of the same state. The lack of water is killing crops. A spokesman for the aid organization Red Cross says that ninety-five percent of crops in Bihar probably will not survive.

Huge floods also are continuing in several European countries. The heavy rains began about two weeks ago. More than sixty people were killed in sudden floods in southern Russia.

Similar weather hit the Czech Republic. Czech safety officials ordered tens of thousands of people to leave the capital, Prague, this week. The rain and overflowing rivers also have damaged hundreds of smaller towns and villages in the Czech Republic. Roads and railroads are underwater in a number of places. Bridges have been carried away by water. Czech officials estimate hundreds of millions of dollars of damage.

The rains and floods are also damaging parts of Germany. Thousands of people have been removed from the historic city of Dresden. The Elbe river in Dresden reached its highest levels in more than one-hundred-fifty years.

The intense rains have also done great damage in Austria. Other affected countries include Italy, Spain, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Hungary and Ukraine. Officials estimate thousands of millions of dollars of damage across Europe.

Many environmental experts say human activities are involved in large climate changes. For example, many scientists believe that the release of industrial wastes is warming the Earth’s atmosphere. Yet no one has proven a direct link between human activity and specific incidents of weather. And, some scientists argue that climate changes are the result of natural causes.

This VOA Special English program In The News was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.