Colombia launches emergency plan to combat El Nino drought

BOGOTA Fri Jul 25, 2014 12:48pm EDT

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BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia has launched an emergency plan to combat the impact of the El Nino weather phenomenon, which has led to drought in several regions of the Andean nation, causing the death of livestock and damage to crops.

Among the measures that were announced by President Juan Manuel Santos late on Thursday were drilling water wells, purchasing water trucks, subsidizing animal feed and offering financing to the agricultural sector.

Santos also said Colombia would buy helicopters and other equipment to fight wildfires sparked by the hot dry weather.

El Nino, which can last more than a year, significantly raises surface temperatures in the central and eastern areas of the tropical Pacific, a phenomenon linked to major climate fluctuations around the world.

While water rationing has not been introduced, Santos urged Colombians to reduce consumption, saying the worst of the drought is still to come.

"What we've seen is only the start, meaning that the phenomenon in all its intensity could last from October to March or April of next year," he told reporters after an emergency cabinet meeting.

There is a 75 to 80 percent probability that the phenomenon will reach its height between October and December, according to the World Meteorological Organization, an agency of the United Nations.

Analysts surveyed in a Reuters poll last month cited El Nino as one of the reasons they raised their 2014 inflation forecast for Colombia to 3.4 percent, above the central bank's goal of 3 percent.

(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Peter Galloway)

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