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NEWS... El Niño Damage

Item #d98nov38

The ENS-Environment News Service reported on Nov. 18 (Internet: that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) had announced that the 1997-1998 El Niño was responsible for 21,706 deaths and $33 billion dollars in damage in 27 countries. The numbers were developed by 450 weather experts at a Guayaquil, Ecuador, workshop sponsored by the WMO. The workshop participants detailed loss of life, destruction of shelter and food, destruction of crops and transport systems, and exposures to extreme health risk. In general, the high material and structural losses occurred in developed areas, and high losses of life occurred in poorer communities. Those injured or otherwise physically affected by El Niño numbered 117,862,114; nearly 5 million were displaced from their homes. A declaration adopted by the workshop participants stated that the climate extremes produced by the 1997-1998 El Niño “imposed continuing poverty on peoples and set back development in many parts of the globe” and called for urgent actions to strengthen intergovernmental weather early warning programs and regional networks. It also called for expanded research on climate predictability.

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