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SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (AP) -- A volcanic eruption on a little-known American island now knee-deep in ash is prompting concern over an inadequate warning system for Pacific volcanoes.

About 70,000 people live on the islands of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, and another 150,000 live on Guam, about 200 miles to the south. Although all the islands are volcanic, eruptions have been rare.

But scientists say the lack of warning before the eruption May 10 on the tiny island of Anatahan, where steam continued to rise Sunday, should put local and federal officials on alert.

A seismic monitoring system set up by the Northern Marianas government is not functioning because of a lack of funds to maintain it, according to Juan T. Camacho, a technician with the islands' Emergency Management Office.

The handful of people on Anatahan left a few days before the May 10 eruption sent a four-mile-high pillar of smoke and ash over the northern Pacific.

China floods kill 40, cause
$100 million damage

BEIJING (AP) -- Flooding in central China has killed at least 40 people and caused nearly $100 million damage to homes and crops, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday.

In central Hunan province, 25 people died and 13 were missing after heavy rain triggered mountain floods.

Fifteen people were reported killed in neighboring Guangdong province, while at least 18,000 people were evacuated from flooded areas.

Constant rain since Thursday also caused severe flooding and landslides in the southeastern province of Fujian, said Xinhua, but no deaths or injuries were reported.

In Hunan, high waters destroyed houses, closed businesses and damaged crops, the news agency said, quoting provincial flood control authorities.

More than 1.2 million people in 19 counties have been affected, Xinhua said.

Sri Lanka braces for rain
after landslides kill 141

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) -- Flash floods and landslides killed 141 people in south-central Sri Lanka over the weekend, state media reported today.

Meteorology officials warned more rain was on its way.

About 150,000 people have fled their homes, officials said. They are being housed in temples, schools and public buildings.

The state-run Daily News, quoting state officials, put the death toll at 141.

Local officials, reached by the telephone, said 69 bodies had been recovered, while 47 others were believed buried in a landslide that wiped out an entire village.

The numbers could not immediately be reconciled.

The flash floods hit the area late Saturday, when most residents had returned to their homes after celebrating a festival marking the birth of Buddha.

Sri Lanka's neighbor India, responding to a plea for help, said it had dispatched a naval patrol craft with relief supplies and medical teams.

Though water was receding from some areas, the Department of Meteorology issued a statement saying, "There will be occasional showers accompanied by fairly strong winds."

U.N. official urges U.S.
to oust Liberian president

CONAKRY, Guinea (AP) -- The U.N. refugee chief Sunday blamed Liberia and warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor for the conflicts and refugee crises roiling West Africa and said in unusually blunt terms that Taylor should be forced out.

Ruud Lubbers, U.N. high commissioner for refugees, also urged the United States to act on what he said was its responsibility toward Liberia, a timber-rich country founded by freed American slaves in the 19th century.

Internationally, "Saddam Hussein had more stature than Taylor. (Slobodan) Milosevic did too. But it's too selective" for the world to act against the Iraqi and Yugoslav dictators and do nothing against Taylor, Lubbers said.

"If you're serious about democracy in the rest of the world, then you should be serious about democracy in West Africa as well," the U.N. refugee chief said.

"My preference is that one would force Taylor to step down," he said Lubbers, the former Dutch prime minister.

Liberia's internal conflicts have displaced 1 million people inside the country and sent 300,000 fleeing to neighboring nations, including Ivory Coast, itself wracked by a civil war.

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