Tiny Pacific Island of Tuvalu calls state of emergency with just two days of drinking water left
- Emergency supplies flown in from New Zealand
- Region at mercy of rain with none forecast before December
Tuvalu, the fourth smallest country in the world, has called a state of emergency
The tiny Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, located midway between Australia and Hawaii, has declared a state of emergency due to a severe shortage of fresh water.
Officials said today that some parts of the country - the fourth smallest in the world with a population of 11,000 - may only have a two-day supply.
New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully said his country was working with the Red Cross to deliver aid workers and supplies as quickly as possible.
He said Tuvalu first declared the emergency last week and the situation had deteriorated since then.
Meteorologists have warned that it is unlikely to rain until December, and workers for the Red Cross said that it has not rained properly in the country for at least six months.
Usually the 10 square mile country has between 200mm to 400mm of rainfall per month.
Water was scarce in the capital, Funafuti, and a number of outlying islands, McCully said, adding that he had received reports saying some places would run out of fresh water within days.
And the secretary general of the Tuvalu Red Cross, Tataua Pefe, said water supplies in some parts of the country could run out as early as today.
He said: 'It's not safe for consumption. Some animals have died recently and we think it's because of subterranean water.'
A New Zealand defence service C-130 plane arrived today carrying two desalination units and a number of water containers, McCully said.
The Queen takes a picture while the Duke of Edinburgh looks on during a visit to Tuvalu in 1982
Tuvalu, which gained independence from Great Britain in 1978 but was visited by the Queen and Prince Philip in 1982, isn't the only Pacific island running out of fresh water after six months of low rainfall.
Officials from Australia and New Zealand have said they are worried about other islands in the region, including Tokelau.
McCully said his government would work with aid agencies to try and figure out a long-term response to the situation.
Today is a national holiday in Tuvalu and government officials could not be immediately reached for comment.