UK & World News

  • 15 February 2014, 11:47

Obama Pledges Aid for Drought-Hit California

Barack Obama has promised millions of dollars in aid to those suffering in the worst drought to hit the American west for a hundred years.

The president visited a farm in California to meet those affected and see the extent of the damage of a dry spell that has now gone on for years.

More than 90% of the state, which produces half of the country's fruit and vegetable stock, is now classed as being in "severe" drought.

Reservoirs have fallen to below 20% of their normal levels and the public of America's most populous state is being asked to conserve water.

The president held a round table discussion with farmers who have seen their land turned into scenes reminiscent of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

Mr Obama said: "I wanted to come here to listen. This is going to be a very challenging situation for some time to come.

"We're going to have to stop looking at these disasters as something to wait for. We're going to have to start looking at these disasters as something to prepare for.

"We are going to stay on top of this because it has national implications."

Mr Obama announced more than $160m in financial aid, including programmes to cover the loss of livestock and food banks, to serve families affected by the water shortage. He will also call on government facilities in California to limit water consumption.

"These actions will help, but they're just the first step.

"We have to be clear. A changing climate means that weather-related disasters like droughts, wildfires, storms, floods, are potentially going to be costlier and they're going to be harsher."

For the first time in its history, California's state water project, which distributes supplies through a network of waterways, has announced it will not be able to meet demand for millions of people.

The drought continues after a year of the lowest rainfall on record. It has sparked wildfires and brought to a head a political row over the state's water resources that feed major cities. Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency.

Mr Obama is also pushing for a $1bn fund to mitigate the impact of climate change. The Climate Resilience Fund is intended to finance research into better understanding of projected impacts and how to better protect communities and infrastructure.

While in California the president is holding talks with Jordan's King Abdullah on the Middle East peace process and the situation in Syria.

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.

Advertisement