- Thousands of Liberians were forced to flee their homes after millions of caterpillar devoured crops and plagued more than 20 villages in Bong, Central Liberia, the Liberian Agricultural Minister Christopher Toe said.
According to a communiqué from Liberia's agriculture minister, the caterpillars, popularly known as army worms which can grow up to 5cm in length are the worst swarm of the insect the country has seen in the last three decades.
Mr Tow said the current swarm of caterpillars are the most dangerous and destructive, saying one female can lay between 500 and 1,000 eggs. "It is also a health problem, because with them in the trees, and with their faeces going into the waters, all the water turns black and our people cannot drink that water," he said.
Authorities in Bong, about 150 kilometers from capital Monrovia, said the worms have contaminated water sources with their faeces, leaving thousands stranded and without clean drinking water.
Local news reports said authorities held emergency meetings since yesterday and are hoping to meet more officials in addressing the current crisis. Local residents have also reported the caterpillars were also infesting buildings and homes in their search for food.
Liberia which already imports more than 70 percent of its staple food, rice, has declared a state of emergency in Bong county at the weekend, appealing for international community to fight the plague.
Meanwhile, the army worms are reported to have crossed to the neighbouring Guinea, threatening a regional invasion.
An emergency coordinator for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on Wednesday sounded the alarm over the insect invasion. "There is a need for immediate action otherwise it may create problems for food production," Tim Vaessen of the FAO said.
The last time swarms of such caterpillars attacked on this scale was in the late 1970s.
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