Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Floods in Africa Kill Dozens and Wipe Out Crops

 NAIROBI - Floods from torrential rains have caused the deaths of at least 80 more people, displaced thousands, and devastated crops and livestock across sub-Saharan Africa, officials said on Friday.

Often prone to drought, East and West Africa also frequently endure floods in August and September, the end of the rainy season.

In the worst-hit nations in East Africa, at least 63 people died in Ethiopia, 15 in Rwanda and nine in Uganda, governments and aid agencies said.

Hailstorms and landslides have compounded the problems, while thousands of families have fled to flimsy shelters, the new school term has been severely disrupted, and the risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera and malaria was growing.

The United Nations said severe floods across West Africa had affected 500,000 people in 12 countries, wiping out crops and homes there as well.

Outbreaks of water-borne diseases and swarms of crop-eating locusts are feared, the latter in both Mali and Niger, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

"Conditions are ripe for an infestation," OCHA spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told a news briefing in Geneva.

The affected countries are Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. About half of those affected live in Ghana, OCHA said.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said earlier this month at least 87 people had been killed in flooding in West Africa, mostly in Nigeria, in the past two months.


In Ethiopia, the federation said its team in the East African country had reported that at least 63 people had died from acute watery diarrhoea in the flood-hit Oromia region, with a total of 3,680 cases reported last month.

The UN World Food Programme earlier said in a statement 17 people had died in the floods in Ethiopia, "while some 4,000 head of livestock have been drowned or washed away, and 34,000 hectares of land has been damaged".

The floods have affected 183,000 people in north Ethiopia, and displaced 42,000, WFP added.

"Food distributions have started to the women, children and men hardest hit by the floods and WFP will work with the concerned authorities to do whatever needs to be done," said WFP Ethiopia country director Mohamed Diab.

The Red Cross federation appealed for nearly US$800,000 to help the flood victims there.

Rwanda said the floods had killed 15 people and left about 1,000 homeless after downpours since Wednesday in the north.

Local Government Minister Protais Musoni told Reuters the Northern Province had also suffered hailstorms and landslides, which had destroyed livestock and property.

In Uganda, the floods have killed nine, driven scores from their homes and closed schools, authorities said.

State Minister for Disaster Preparedness Musa Ecweru told Reuters a week of torrential rains had devastated the war-stricken north of the country.

"The floods have made an already bad situation worse. The people who had been displaced by insurgency have had their camps swept away by floods," Ecweru said. "Several communities have been cut off and we cannot access them."

Planet Ark : Floods in Africa Kill Dozens and Wipe Out Crops