COLOMBIA (3 February)
Abnormally warm and dry conditions persist in the northwestern parts of the country, where about nine weeks of moisture deficit have accumulated. Severe dry conditions are also reported along the Andean mountain range, in the mountain valleys, and along the Caribbean and parts of the northern Pacific coasts. Water reservoir levels are reported low and water and electric power rationing measures have been adopted in some areas, particularly in the northern departments of Guajira, Magdalena and Bolivar. Similar measures have been implemented in the central departments of Santander, Cundimarca, and Tolima, as well in the departments of Cauca and Nariño in the south- west. The number of forest fires continues to increase because of the drought and river transportation and access to marine ports have become increasingly difficult. By contrast, heavy rains and flooding are reported in some regions of the Pacific coast, as well as in the interior departments of Caquetá and Putumayo, where landslides are also reported. Plantings of the 1997/98 second season cereal crops, as well as the area planted to other food and cash crops, were reduced all over the country. Plantings of rainfed crops were significantly reduced principally because of farmers’ fears of losing their crops. Prospects are uncertain for the planting of the 1998 first season cereal crops which should start from April as present conditions are expected to persist for the next few weeks.