29 April 2005

Somalia: 'Unprecedented' Water Level Rise Augurs Greater Flood Damage for Somalia - UN

In East Africa, where days of heavy rains and flooding have led to numerous deaths and entire villages being wiped out, locals are reporting an unprecedented rise in Somalia's Shabelle River and that a major water surge may be headed into the centre of the country, the United Nations said today.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), reports yesterday from Belet Weyne, close to the border with Ethiopia, indicated that the river level had increased there by over two meters in 15 hours. It was by all local accounts unprecedented in recent times and indicated that a major surge of water was now passing into Central Somalia. Heavy rain was also expected to continue into next week.

In Jowhar, 90 kilometres north of the capital Mogadishu, three villages were affected by breaks in the river. Overnight, river levels dropped from 4.6 to 4 metres, suggesting a breach somewhere upstream. OCHA said Somali authorities and humanitarian agencies agreed that larger scale protection of the river embankment was required and that it would be supported by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). A humanitarian contingency plan was also being developed.

On Sunday heavy rains and floods hit Hargeisa, the main city Somaliland. The floods washed away one of the two bridges in the south-western part of the city and damaged huts and houses on the banks of the river as well as electric power lines. The destruction of the bridge limits the accessibility and mobility of the population around the city, affecting daily activities such as commuting to work, school and accessing hospitals and markets. The floods affected at least 170 households.

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