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Sudan grasshopper swarm 'kills 11'

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KHARTOUM, Sudan (Reuters) -- Eleven people died and thousands were taken to hospital with breathing difficulties after a swarm of grasshoppers invaded a town in central Sudan, the government-owned Al-Anbaa newspaper reported on Saturday.

The paper cited health authorities in Wad Medani, capital of the central al-Jezira state, as saying an epidemic of what they considered to be asthma had afflicted 1,685 people since October 22, all of whom had since been cured.

The authorities also said 11 people had died from the breathing difficulties.

"The appearance of the epidemic is linked to the unprecedented increase in the grasshopper insects," the daily quoted the health authorities as saying.

Resident Joseph Mogum in Wad Medani, about 110 miles (176 km) southeast of the capital Khartoum, said the grasshoppers gave off a strong smell which caused breathing problems.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation said on October 21 that swarms of locusts were threatening crops in northeastern Sudan, Mauritania and northern Niger, but it was not clear if it was the same species that was affecting Wad Medani in central Sudan.

Mogum said the grasshoppers were smaller than the usual species that appear during the rainy season in Sudan and destroy vegetation.

Heavy rains in Africa's largest country over the past three months have caused floods that have killed at least 20 people.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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