Thursday, October 29, 2009

SOMALIA: "Too much, too soon" as 15,000 flee floods

SOMALIA: "Too much, too soon" as 15,000 flee floods

NAIROBI, 29 October 2009 (IRIN) - Flash floods caused by four days of torrential rains have displaced more than 15,000 people in the southwestern town of El-Waq near the Kenyan border and submerged most homes and businesses, say locals.

 "Most of the town is under water, with people moving to higher ground around the town," Alaso Gurhan, a resident of El-Waq, in Gedo region of southwestern Somalia, told IRIN on 28 October.

 The local administration and civil society groups have been able to move many people to safer ground, she said.

 She said mothers with small children and the elderly were being given priority in the provision of shelter material. "We are all in the open now with very little help. We don't have much so we have to give first to the weakest."

 A lot of livestock have reportedly died due to the ongoing rains. "Hundreds of goats and sheep weakened by the drought have succumbed to the rains and the cold weather," said Ali Hassan, a civil society activist.

 He said El-Waq, like the rest of Somalia, was waiting for the rain but it was "too much in too short a time. If the rain continues the way it has for the last four days we will be in serious trouble."

 He said most of the residents, about 18,000 with some 900 displaced families (5,400 people) from Mogadishu, had been affected. "We are no better than the displaced today," he added. He said the population was concentrating on the hills around the town. "Any higher ground in the area is now occupied."

 Hassan Hussein, an engineer with Development Frontier International, an NGO, told IRIN they were now trying to dig trenches to allow the water to drain from the town.

 He said there was still a danger of more flooding since the rains were ongoing. He said his group was organizing the population to alert them to any more danger. "We are using the loud-speakers in mosques to tell people to help the weak and to get to higher ground."

 People who are still in low-lying areas were also being told to move to higher ground, he said.

 He said shelter material was urgently needed. "There are many people who are too weak to stay in the open or in the flimsy shelters we have. We need help in the provision of tents and other shelter material if we are to avert a serious health situation."

 There are fears that with the rains mosquitoes and waterborne diseases will not be far behind, he warned.


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