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Iraq rattled by snake plague

A plague of snakes has caused panic in Iraq's southern province of Nasiriyah, biting cattle and worrying residents as poisonous reptiles flee their dens in the country's water-deprived marshes. "We have been surprised in recent days by the UNPRECEDENTED NUMBER of snakes that have fled their habitat because of the dryness and heat. We saw some on roads, near houses and cowsheds. They have attacked cows and buffalo, and farmers have come to us looking for vaccines but we don't have any.'' Iraq's water reserves dipped to 11 billion cubic metres in May, compared with 40 billion cubic metres three years earlier, although rainfall this past winter was normal. Experts say Iraq faces agricultural disaster this summer if neighbouring Turkey continues to retain waters from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which have nourished Iraqi agriculture for millennia. Iraq says the problem is the many dams Turkey has built over the past 30 years to irrigate its own southeast.

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