March 17, 2000
Eastern Bolivian floods wipe out homes and crops

                   LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters) -- At least 1,200 families have lost their
                   belongings and 230 square miles of crops have been badly damaged in
                   floods in Bolivia's eastern district of Santa Cruz, local officials said Thursday.

                   Abnormally intense and unforeseen rains caused the Pirai and Grande rivers
                   to overflow for the past three days, covering much of the country's richest
                   area, home to a important soybean crop.

                   A vast aid operation is under way, but the district government has been
                   overwhelmed by the havoc, Santa Cruz Gov. Ramon Prada said.

                   Air delivery of food started Thursday for the flood victims, mostly farmers
                   who saw their precarious homesteads washed away.

                   The National Oil Seed Producers Association (ANAPO) said big crop
                   losses were feared but would only be confirmed when the flood waters

                   Soybeans and their derivatives are among Bolivia's leading exports, worth
                   more than $200 million in 1999.

                    Copyright 2000 Reuters.