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Climate Change

3.6 billion people face inadequate access to water: WMO

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2022)

Around 3.6 billion people currently face inadequate access to water for at least one month per year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its State of Global Water Resources 2021 report.

The figure is projected to increase to more than five billion by 2050. The report published on Tuesday, November 29, assesses the effects of climate, environmental and societal change on the Earth’s water resources.

The report shows that due to the influence of climate change and a La Nina event (period cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific), the year 2021 witnessed large areas drier than normal around the world.

According to WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, though the impacts of climate change are often felt through water — such as more intense and frequent droughts, more extreme flooding, more erratic seasonal rainfall and accelerated melting of glaciers — there is still insufficient understanding of changes in the distribution, quantity and quality of freshwater resources.

The WMO report aims to fill this knowledge gap, which would be helpful in providing universal access in the next five years to early warnings of hazards, such as floods and droughts, he said.

Climate Change

13 dead in Chile amid struggle to contain raging wildfires

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(Last Updated On: February 4, 2023)

At least 13 people were reported dead as of Friday night as a result of the more than 150 wildfires burning across Chile that have destroyed homes and thousands of acres of forest while the South American country is in the midst of a scorching heat wave.

Four of the deaths involved two separate vehicles in the Biobío region, around 560 kilometers south of the capital of Santiago, the Associated Press reported.

“In one case they were burned because they were hit by the fire,” Interior Minister Carolina Tohá said. In the other case, she said, the victims died in a crash, “probably trying to escape the fire.”

The fifth victim was a firefighter who was run over by a fire truck while combating a blaze in the area.

Later in the afternoon, a helicopter that was helping combat the flames crashed in the Araucanía region, killing the pilot, a Bolivian national, and a mechanic, who was Chilean.

At nightfall, the national agency responsible for emergencies raised the death toll to 13 without giving details on the latest deaths.

As of midday Friday, 151 wildfires were burning throughout Chile, including 65 declared under control. The fires had blazed through more than 14,000 hectares.

The heat wave hitting Chile is set to continue with high temperatures and strong winds that could make the wildfires more challenging, AP reported.

President Gabriel Boric suspended his vacation to travel to the affected areas on Friday and said there is “evidence” that some of the wildfires were sparked by unauthorized burnings.

“The full force of the state will be deployed to, first of all, fight the fires and to accompany all the victims,” Boric said.

It remained unclear how many homes and other structures had been burned.

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Climate Change

Over 160 die in Afghanistan as extreme cold sweeps across the country

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(Last Updated On: January 29, 2023)

A cold snap in Afghanistan has killed over 160 people and more than 200,000 livestock in what officials say is its coldest winter in 15 years.

Temperatures in some parts of the country have plummeted to -33 degrees Celsius and heavy snowfalls have been recorded across the nation – which is grappling with a severe humanitarian crisis.

The country’s disaster management agency said on Saturday that the death toll had risen by 88 over the past week and now stood at 166, based on data from 24 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Ministry official Abdul Rahman Zahid said in a video statement that the deaths were caused by floods, fires and leaks from gas heaters, while about 100 homes have been destroyed.

“The Afghan winter … as everybody in Afghanistan knows, is the big messenger of doom for so many families in Afghanistan as we go through these many years of humanitarian need … we see some of the consequences in loss of life,” UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said this week 17 people had died in a single village in northeastern Badakhshan province due to an outbreak of “acute respiratory infection.”

“Harsh weather prevents help from reaching the area,” the WHO said.

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Climate Change

New Zealand’s Auckland starts clean-up after deadly flash floods

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(Last Updated On: January 28, 2023)

The authorities in New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, began clean up operations on Saturday after torrential rains brought flash flooding and evacuations, with at least three people confirmed dead and one still missing.

A state of emergency remained in place in the city of 1.6 million people on New Zealand’s north island as the rains eased after Friday’s flooding in the north, north-west and west, the Straits Times reported.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who has been in office for less than a week, flew over Auckland in a helicopter before vitising flood-hit homes.

“The level of devastation in some areas is considerable,” Hipkins told reporters, describing the event as “unprecedented” in recent memory.

Auckland Emergency Management issued a statement saying: “Auckland was clobbered on Friday – Auckland’s wettest day on record – and today we start the clean-up.”

The local weather forecaster meanwhile warned of possible downpours again on Sunday.

Showers were “dotted around Auckland” with some heavy rain west of the city, Auckland Emergency Management tweeted, while warning residents to “stay safe” amid the emergency.

“We’re not out of this yet. Heavy rain returns tomorrow,” the agency wrote on the social media platform.

Two men were found dead, New Zealand Police said. A search was under way for a man believed swept away, while another person was unaccounted for after a landslide hit a house in an inner Auckland suburb, police said.

More than 2,000 calls for assistance and 70 evacuations were made around the city, the New Zealand Herald reported.

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