Published: Sunday 30 April 2000

At least seven people have been killed and over 6,000 people rendered homeless by massive floods caused by persistent torrential rainfall in northeastern Argentina. Social development minister Graciela Fernandez Meijide said that flood waters had washed away roads, downed electrical and telephone lines and threatened the water supply in at least six provinces.

A similar flood situation in 1998 was caused by the El Nio weather phenomenon, whereby unusual warming of parts of the eastern Pacific Ocean wrecked havoc on the world weather. This time the floods may have been triggered by La Nina -- a cooling of the eastern Pacific that causes drought in most parts of Argentina and excessive rain elsewhere.

Although Argentina's per capita income of around us $9,000 is the highest in Latin America, the provinces that are worse hit by this year's flood are home to the nation's poorest people. Already supplies of medicine, food, blankets and building supplies have been sent to the affected regions.

In the Tucuman province, which is the hardest hit, the government had to give permission to demolish a portion of a highway to allow the water to drain away. Other provinces hit by the floods include Jujuy, Santiago del Estero, Catamarca, Salta and La Rioja.

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