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Asia floods ease, but more heavy rain looms

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WRAPUP - By James Poole

SINGAPORE, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Flooding and rains that have killed over 100 people in Southeast Asia have started to recede, but forecasters warned on Wednesday that more heavy rain was on the way and the unusually wet weather could last until February.

Experts say heavy rainfall in the region is consistent with the climate change expected from global warming, but they concede that, scientifically, there is still no direct link.

"The floods out here are exactly in line with what one would expect," said Peter Walker, head of delegation for Southeast Asia for the International Federation of Red Cross Societies (IFRC).

"This is a taste of things to come," he told Reuters.

U.N. weather scientists say the combination of heavy rainfall in Southeast Asia and devastating drought across Central Asia this year is in the extremes of what has been experienced over the last 100 years.

The worst flooding in decades earlier this year in Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh and eastern India killed hundreds of people, left millions homeless and destroyed crops and livestock.

The region's volatile weather showed little sign of calming on Wednesday as a tropical cyclone packing winds up to 135 kph was set to cross southern India from the Bay of Bengal.

INDONESIA RAINS TO PERSIST UNTIL FEBRUARY

Indonesian officials say around 60 people have been killed and scores are missing after a week of heavy rains, flooding and landslides in the north and west of the island of Sumatra.

The rains are now easing, but weather forecasters say that unusually heavy rainfall is likely to be experienced until the end of February.

"A lot of small landslides are taking away houses and people are starting to move into the coastal areas so we'll be starting a programme to assist those people," said Walker of the IFRC.

"The landslides are definitely in areas that have been deforested," he added.

In Thailand, officials at Bangkok's rescue centre said the flood situation had significantly improved with waters receding across southwestern provinces.

At least 54 people were killed in last week's floods in southern Thailand and nine are still missing.

In Malaysia, at least 11 people were killed in the past week as monsoon rains triggered floods in several parts of the peninsula but thousands of people started to return to their homes on Wednesday as floodwaters subsided.

In Australia, the state of New South Wales suffered its worst flooding in 50 years last week with a third of the state under water.

ENVIRONMENTALISTS URGE QUICK MOVE ON CLIMATE

In Washington on Tuesday, environmentalists urged climate change treaty negotiators to act quickly to resume talks suspended last week in The Hague.

They claim a final deal to cut the world's greenhouse gas emissions - blamed for triggering global warming - was close.

Any major player in talks can call for a resumption of the negotiations, according to the environmentalists, who noted that given a little more time, a final treaty could be reached.

Many nations have lamented the failure of last week's climate talks and say that time is running out to agree practical steps to curb global warming, which environmentalists say is melting ice caps, raising sea water and making the weather more volatile.

The IFRC's Walker said the floods in Cambodia and Vietnam this year were the worst since the 1960s. "The rains started earlier and carried on longer, and the storm intensity was greater than usual," he said.

"We are planning on the basis that we will have to do the same thing again next year (supply disaster relief)."

(email: james.poole@reuters.com with contributions from the following bureaux - Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Washington)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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