Thursday, 26 June 2014

Liberia caterpillar plague causes mass evacuation and crop destruction

A plague of caterpillars has forced thousands of people to flee their homes in northern Liberia, as well destroying crops, contaminating water and forcing schools to close.

Residents of at least 25 villages and towns in Lofa and Gbarpolu counties have joined a mass exodus so far this month to escape the trail of caterpillar excrement, according to the Voice of America (VOA).

It is the second such invasion in five years. A state of emergency was declared in 2009 after tens of millions of caterpillars swept through at least 80 towns and villages in the centre and north of the country.

Dr Sizi Subah, deputy agriculture minister for technical services, told Liberia's The Inquirer that the caterpillars, which travel in huge numbers, have the capacity to destroy large areas since they feed on the leaves of cash crops such as coffee, cocoa and vegetables during the larva stage before developing into butterflies.

Subah linked the latest infestation to "climate change", the Inquirer reported.

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