El Nino expected to wreak havoc in S. America well into 2016

Updated: 2016-01-26 15:40


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El Nino expected to wreak havoc in S. America well into 2016

Fisherman Gabriel Barreto walks on the shore of the Magdalena river, the longest and most important river in Colombia, in the city of Honda, Jan 14, 2016. While flooding and intense rain wreak havoc on several countries in Latin America, El Nino brings other harmful effects to Colombia with severe drought. [Photo/Agencies]

MEXICO CITY - After displacing over 100,000 South Americans with severe floods in 2015, the El Nino weather phenomenon is expected to wreak more havoc in the region well into 2016.

The global phenomenon -- triggered by unusually warm ocean surface temperatures in the central Pacific that disrupt weather patterns -- robbed rain from southeast Asia as it inundated parts of Latin America late last year.

In a Dec. 29 report, Josh Willis, a project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said satellite images potentially showed "we have not yet seen the peak of this El Nino," mainly because the amount of extra-warm surface water has continued to increase.

Some two weeks later, on Jan 13, Colombia's meteorological institute (IDEAM) labeled the 2015/2016 El Nino as "the second strongest on record," adding it "continues in its stage of greatest intensity."

Extreme weather in parts of Latin America shows El Nino remains active.

Colombian environmental authorities in mid-January issued a red alert in several departments (states) affected by excessively high temperatures and drought during the Southern Hemisphere's summer season due to El Nino.

One of the departments worst hit so far is Huila, where 4,000 heads of cattle have perished from drought, which local officials are trying to fight by building deep wells and water reservoirs.

Other departments, such as Boyaca, are struggling with water shortages and forest fires. In the first two weeks of 2016 alone, 45 forest fires razed up to 116 hectares of woods.

Colombia's Environment Minister Gabriel Vallejo warned that temperatures in Tolima, where a health emergency was declared, are four degrees Celsius higher than the average for this time of year.

Other parts of the country, meanwhile, have seen crops ruined due to cold snaps.

Farmer Leandro Silva, a resident of Subachoque, in the department of Cundinamarca, told Xinhua what the local situation was by phone. "Here our crops have been damaged. The potatoes ruined, the grass ruined due to frost and the summer's not over.... I don't know what the weather will bring if this summer continues."

Silva said he couldn't recall living through a similar crisis due to weather.

"The water levels, the aqueducts are already being rationed ... the banks need to help the growers, because they are charging more interest," said Silva.

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