Hungary urges stockpiling

BUDAPEST, Dec 30, 1999 -- (Reuters) Hungary said Thursday it was ready for any emergency due to the millennium bug, with huge backup forces on hand if needed -- but urged people to stock up on food and candles just in case.

"We can mobilize 70,000 people to avoid panic and ensure survival conditions if heating, water and electricity supplies should break down," said Jozsef Schieber, head of the civil defense force.

He said civil defense was prepared to set up heated tents and hand out food for at least two million people "if the situation fails to normalize within a short time." It is also prepared to bag drinking water, organize the bottling of water in beer factories and to set up latrines if necessary, he told AFP.

He insisted Budapest was not expecting the worst.

"These are moves we are prepared to take in any emergency. They should not be exaggerated due to the date change," he said. "I trust no emergency moves will be needed," said government Y2K coordinator Imre Mojzes.

But Schieber called on people to stock up on dry beans, pasta and canned food, as well as torches and candles in case of power outages.

And he warned against "trying to test all the systems at the same time on January 1, because extreme, mass use can cause problems independent of the date change."

Hungary has allocated Ft 325 million (1.8 million euros / dollars) to fend off Y2K bug problems, but the World Bank also granted it half a million dollars for the purpose, he said.

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