La Niña announces her arrival with killer floods in Asia

Over 3 000 deaths in Asia have been attributed to La Niña-provoked flooding since persistent rains began throughout the region in late June. Bangladesh and China have been hit the hardest - at least 2 000 people have been killed in China, mostly in heavily populated central and southern areas - but deaths have also been reported in the Republic of Korea, India and Nepal, according to a recent Special Report. The flooding, which has left many of the more than 250 million people affected across the region without shelter and possessions, is thought to be one of the first signs of the arrival of La Niña.

Considered the "sister" of the weather phenomenon referred to as El Niño, La Niña is characterized by an upswelling of cold water in the areas of the Pacific Ocean that turn abnormally warm during El Niño. It threatens to reverse the extreme weather trends suffered in many countries of the region, flooding drought-stricken areas and vice versa, as they continue to struggle to recover from the impact of El Niño. El Niño, which began in March 1997 and ended only recently, caused severe drought in much of Asia, particularly in Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, which recorded its worst drought in over 50 years.

The recent flooding has inflicted severe damage on the region's infrastructure, including roads, bridges and rail links, seriously disrupting the transport of commodities. Large areas of cropped land have been submerged in China, Bangladesh and the Republic of Korea.

Although it is too early to estimate the impact of the floods on regional crop production, there are fears of a decline in world paddy output, 90 percent of which comes from Asia. This could fuel further increases in world rice prices, already unseasonably high. Indonesia, once self-sufficient in rice, is now the world's largest importer, and faces the severe prospect of reduced production as a result of earlier drought, high world prices and an unprecedented financial crisis.

Go to Special Report

1 September 1998 

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