13 September 2011

Sudan: Heavy Rains in N. Bahr El Ghazal Displace Thousands Amid High Food Prices

Juba — Heavy rainfall in Northern Bahr el Ghazal have forced thousands from their homes in Aweil town, the state capital, as swollen rivers washed away roads making rescue efforts difficult, government and aid officials said on Tuesday.

"The number of people affected by the floods has more than doubled in the last four days. We have sent teams to do more accurate assessments of the situation, but we do feel it's going to get worse," Deng Kuel Kuel, a director with the South Sudan's Relief and Rehabilitation Commission in the state, told Sudan Tribune by phone from Aweil on Tuesday.

Kuel said in the most severely affected areas of Hai Salam, Makuac Aweit, Maper, Deng Nhial and Ayuang a lot of people have been forced out of their homes.

Some of the areas are in "critical state," said the state's relief official, adding that around 18,000 are homeless.

Northern Bahr el Ghazal, is one of the ten states of South Sudan that has been hit by the rising food prices, largely blamed on the halt of trade from North Sudan following southern independence.

The state is haunted by memories of floods last year, which brought widespread disparagement of the government because of its slow response. The authorities have requested 15 million South Sudan Pounds ($5.6m) to support town planning operations including setting up proper drainage system.

While no reports about casualties have been reported, flood waters have destroyed or damaged houses and flooded main streets in the town since the beginning of September, a series of local disaster management officials told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.

In Aweil few people made it to work and school on Tuesday. Locals say more rain is forecasted through Wednesday.

"As I am talking to you, the sky is clouded with heavy clouds. Dark clouds in the sky are running from west to east. These are signs indicating possibilities of another rain on Wednesday", says Deng Aguer, a local official with Aweil East county.

Many roads are impassable, cars get stuck and several places were inundated.

"Agriculture officials told me today they have recorded 50-100 mm (2 to 4 inches) of rain in low lying areas and the situation is appalling. It can turn even worse," said Aguer.

"I thought I would be able to make it to work today, but it was not possible. I tried but I got stuck. To make it worse, my motorbike broke down and I could not even find anyone for help. I was alone for almost half of the day because it was raining", he explained.

Victims of heavy rains and colliding floods from the overflowing local rivers, especially Kuom river, who spoke to Sudan Tribune from Aweil town, expressed disappointment with government's intervention so far echoing sentiment during last year's disaster.

"We are on our own. I don't know how we are going to manage it," said Malek Wek, who said he took a refuge with 80 others in an open area is serving as a shelter in Aweil town.

Wek said they are still living outside in the open not knowing what to do or where to go because the government has not yet told them where they should go.

"All our houses have been submerged by the flood. The floods took many of us by surprise. This is why we have lost some of our belongings. Everything we have is destroyed. When the water came we just grabbed a few belongings, anything we could carry, like the beds. We have just the clothes we are wearing."

While almost half of the town is submerged by water, state officials with the ministry of physical infrastructure said they are doing their best to drain out the water and repair damaged homes, bridges, roads and other infrastructure amid fears over possible outbreaks of diseases linked to the new floods, especially among children.

Simon Deng Duang, a member of National Assembly in Juba, representing Aweil town, expressed his concerns to Sudan Tribune about flooding and said the town is lying in water.

"I am told ten places in Aweil town have been submerged by water and people are now living in the open", he said calling on the international organisations in the area to intervene.

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