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El Niño blamed for deadly and destructive weather across the globe

This year’s El Niño is the worst in more than 15 years, the UN weather agency said last month.

An American flag placed by first responders is seen 27 December, 2015 in the aftermath of a tornado in Rowlett, Texas. At least 11 people lost their lives as tornadoes tore through Texas, authorities said, as they searched home to home for possible more victims of the freak storms lashing the southern United States. Picture: AFP.
El Nino,South America,South American floods
World

CAPE TOWN - El Niño is being blamed for deadly and destructive weather across the globe.

Heavy rains across South America have displaced more than 150,000 people across Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay; while sections of northern England have disappeared following mammoth flooding, prompting evacuations and dozens of urgent warnings.

At the same time, authorities in Spain and Australia are battling to get devastating fires under control.

In the worse affected country, Paraguay, around 90,000 people in the area around the capital city of Asuncion have been evacuated, the municipal Emergencies Office said. 

Many are poor families living in precarious housing along the banks of the River Paraguay.

The Paraguayan government has declared a state of emergency in Asuncion and seven regions of the country to free up funds to help those affected.

Several people have been killed by trees falling in the storms that caused the flooding, local media reported. There was no official death toll yet.

In Alberdi, some 120 kilometres south of Asuncion, the government recommended that several thousand more people living along the banks of the River Paraguay evacuate.

“[The flooding] was directly influenced by the El Niño phenomenon, which has intensified the frequency and intensity of rains,” the national Emergencies Office said.

This year’s “El Nino,” which sparks global climate extremes, is the worst in more than 15 years, the UN weather agency, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), said last month.

“Severe droughts and devastating flooding being experienced throughout the tropics and sub-tropical zones bear the hallmarks of this El Niño, which is the strongest in more than 15 years,” WMO chief Michel Jarraud said in a statement.

Officials at Paraguay's Emergencies Office said the river might rise even more in the coming days, stabilising and falling back towards normal levels from January onwards.

BAD INFRASTRUCTURE

In northern Argentina, around 20,000 people have also had to abandon their homes, the government said on Saturday.

“We are going to have a few complicated months, the consequences will be serious,” said Ricardo Colombi, the governor of the Corrientes region, after flying over the worst affected areas with national Cabinet Chief Marcos Pena.

Pena said national government aid was already on its way and the new president, Mauricio Macri, who took office earlier this month, intended to make improving infrastructure a priority so that such flooding did not occur again.

“Argentina has a very big lack of infrastructure,” he said. Macri will visit the flooded areas on Sunday.

In Uruguay, more than 9,000 people have had to flee their homes, according to the national Emergencies Office, which added that it expected water levels to remain at their current level for several days before subsiding.

At least four people have died in Argentina and Uruguay due to the storms and floods, according to local media reports. One was reported to have drowned while another was electrocuted by a fallen power cable.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff also flew over the flooded areas on the border with Argentina and Uruguay on Saturday morning. Rio Grande do Sul state Civil Defense said 1,795 people were left homeless there after 38 towns were affected by heavy rains.

CHRISTMAS TIME STORMS, TORNADOES KILLS 43

At the same time, storms hit the US South, Southwest and Midwest over the Christmas holiday weekend, unleashing floods and tornadoes that killed at least 43 people, flattened buildings and snarled transportation for millions during a busy travel time.

The bad weather, or the threat of it, prompted the governors of Missouri and New Mexico to declare a state of emergency for their states.

Flash floods killed at least 13 people in Missouri and Illinois.

In Texas, at least 11 people were killed in the Dallas area over the weekend by tornadoes, including one packing winds of up to 322 km per hour. The twister hit the city of Garland, killing eight people and blowing vehicles off highways.

WATCH: Deadly tornado rips through Dallas

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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