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Asia Floods, Russia Burns as Weather Takes Its Toll

Aug. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Floods killed thousands and left millions homeless from Pakistan to North Korea as fires and drought in Russia roiled global markets and a tropical storm headed toward Bermuda.

Devastation in Asia may stretch aid efforts as crops are destroyed at a time of soaring wheat prices, caused in part by Russia’s decision to ban grain exports through Dec. 31. Raw-sugar futures also rose in New York on speculation that Russia may import more to offset drought losses.

In the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Colin reformed and is bearing down on Bermuda with maximum sustained winds of 45 miles (75 kilometers) per hour, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. The storm is centered 330 miles (530 kilometers south of the island nation and is expected to drop as much as 5 inches of rain there starting today.

“Mother Nature is playing a very evil hand,” Peter McGuire, managing director at CWA Global Markets Pty, said in a telephone interview from Sydney yesterday. “It’s always the poor that suffer.”

Floods in northwestern Pakistan that have left 1,400 people dead and 1.5 million homeless since July 22 may spread to the south, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan Martin Mogwanja said yesterday.

The country’s deadliest floods in 80 years have damaged 5 percent of its rice crop, the Rice Exporters Association said. At least 1.8 million people urgently need food, according to the UN’s World Food Program.

India, North Korea

More than 110 people died and hundreds others are missing after flash floods struck the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir yesterday, Press Trust of India reported, citing State Police Chief Kuldeep Khoda and others.

In North Korea, rains triggered landslides that blocked railways, wrecked homes and buried crops, piling on hardship for a country that already needs aid to feed its 24 million people.

Floods and heavy rain in China have killed at least 1,450 people this year, leveled more than 1.3 million houses and destroyed more than 2 million hectares of farmland, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

China’s worst floods in more than a decade may cut rice and pork supplies for the largest producer, boosting prices and hampering government efforts to keep inflation under 3 percent. Rice output may fall 5 percent to 7 percent, Li Qiang, managing director at Shanghai JC Intelligence Co., said this week.

Food Crisis?

Damage to crops and food stores may hinder aid to flood victims and other vulnerable groups in the region and raise concerns of a repeat of the 2008 food crisis, when record prices sparked protests from Haiti to the Philippines. Wheat prices rallied to the highest in almost two years yesterday because of the ban by Russia, the third-largest exporter, and floods in Canada, the world’s sixth-largest supplier of the grain.

Dry weather is affecting the winter wheat crop in western Australia, said David Streit, senior lead forecaster with Commodity Weather Group in Bethesda, Maryland.

“The markets are starting to focus on that because wheat is so tight right now,” Streit said.

In Russia, forest and peat-bog fires east of Moscow have shrouded the city in smoke and delayed as many as 140 flights at the capital’s airport.

Scorched Earth

Carbon monoxide in Moscow’s air rose to as high as 4.8 times the admissible maximum level before tapering off slightly toward evening, the city’s environmental protection department said on its website yesterday. The Health Ministry advised Russians to stay indoors, limit physical activity and wear masks when venturing outside.

Emergency crews are battling 558 fires covering 179,596 hectares (693 square miles) across Russia, the Emergency Situations Ministry said on its website. So far this year, fires have scorched 729,761 hectares, an area about three times the size of Luxembourg, according to the ministry. The fires have killed at least 52 people, the Health Ministry said.

Firefighters and farmers won’t get any relief from nature any time soon, said Streit.

“The ridge that is responsible for the record-setting heat is still going to be with us for the next 10 days,” Streit said.

If the drought persists, it may hinder efforts to plant a winter wheat crop in Russia, Streit said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Madelene Pearson in Mumbai on; Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bill Banker at; Paul Tighe at

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