(HN, October 11, 2011) - Amid a global food crisis that has seen the price of staple items soar in countries as diverse as Somalia, Pakistan and Laos, historic floods triggered by heavy monsoon rains have damaged tens of thousands of hectares of rice paddies in South-east Asia.
Worst hit is Thailand - the world's Number One exporter of rice. However, smaller and poorer countries such as Laos and Cambodia are fearing extensive crop damage.
More rains are forecast in an unusual monsoon season that has already devastated some 1.5 million hectares of prime agricultural land. Vietnam, the world's Number Two rice exporter, has also suffered extensive crop damage.
In Thailand, where flooding has been mostly limited to rural areas, the capital Bangkok is bracing itself for a deluge. More than 230 people have already died in Thailand.
Laos, among the poorest countries in the world, has been struggling to recover from severe tropical storms that struck in June. The Vientiane Times reports that some 64,000 hectares of rice land has been damaged by flooding this wet season.
More than 429,900 people in 1,790 villages of 96 districts across 12 provinces have been affected by floods and landslides triggered by tropical storms Haima and Nock-Ten, the newspaper reported.
"The whole region will now suffer from rising food prices as potential harvests have now been devastated," said Margareta Wahlstrom, the United Nations chief of disaster reduction. "The damage is very serious this year and it will be some time before people can resume normal lives."
The Mekong River, which cuts through all the countries, is rising in some parts. According to the Bangkok-based Mekong River Commission "all stations along the Mekong River mainstream were recording levels that are above the long-term average for this time of year."
- HUMNEWS staff, UN, agencies