Reported cases of cholera rose 30 percent last year to almost 70,000 worldwide, even before this year's big South American outbreak, World Health Organization data showed Friday.

Most of the increase was recorded in Africa and Asia, with Nepal, Malawi and Angola leading the list.Romania, the Soviet Union and New Zealand were among countries newly reporting outbreaks, while Latin America declared itself still cholera-free at the end of last year.

Cholera reports have increased in five of the last six years, with a temporary dip only in 1988, according to WHO figures.

Last year's figure, 69,361, was up from 53,970 in 1989. Nearly 200,000 cases have been reported already this year in the South American outbreak, which has killed more than 2,200 people, mostly in Peru.

Zambia's latest outbreak has claimed 840 lives among 10,906 reported cases, the agency said.

Romania's first outbreak was linked to the drinking of water from the Danube. The Soviet Union reported its first cases since 1970, with 45 people infected by sewage-tainted spring water at a campground in the south.

In the Pacific, cholera spread to Tuvalu for the first time with some 27 cases. New Zealand also reported its first indigenous case.

Cholera is a severely dehydrating form of diarrhea. Treatment is relatively cheap and easy if clean water is available, but the disease can kill quickly if not fought.