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Tuvalu declares emergency over water shortage

image captionTuvalu's main island, Funafuti Atoll, is one of those suffering from water shortages.

The tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu has declared a state of emergency because of a severe shortage of fresh water.

It has affected the capital, Funafuti, and a number of outer islands.

Low-lying Tuvalu is one of the smallest countries in the world, with a population of about 11,000 - nearly half live on Funafuti.

A New Zealand Air Force plane has flown to Tuvalu, carrying water supplies and two desalination units.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said ministry officials would remain in Tuvalu to help assess the needs on the ground.

"New Zealand will be working with partners and other donors to consider the best medium-to-long-term response options," he said.

Water not safe

The Tuvalu Red Cross said water supplies in some areas would run out on Tuesday.

Secretary General Tataua Pefe advised people against drinking water from wells.

"It's not safe for consumption," he told Radio Australia. "Some animals have died recently and we think it's because of subterranean water."

Mr Pefe said it had not rained properly in Tuvalu for more than six months and meteorologists were forecasting the lack of rain would continue until December.

Tuvalu normally expects to get 200 mm to 400 mm of rainfall per month.

Experts blame the drought on the La Nina weather phenomena.

Tuvalu is one of the countries most likely to be affected by climate change.

Its people fear rising tides threaten to overwhelm their homes and poison supplies of freshwater, making their islands uninhabitable.

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