The Heat Is Online

East African floods -- Nov, 1997

See: "Rain Is a New Agony for Somalia, as Villages Are Suddenly Islands," The New York Times, Nov. 19, 1997.

Also:

"Floods kill 23 in Somalia"

MOGADISHU, Nov. 8, 1997 (AFP) - Torrential rain and flooding in southwest Somalia over the past two weeks has resulted in the deaths of 23 people, the radio of north Mogadishu strongman Ali Mahdi Mohamed reported Saturday, quoting community leaders.

It said villages had been abandoned, and appealed to the world community for help.

Elders of the southwestern Digil-Mirifle clan told AFP the number of casualties was far higher than reported by the radio, but did not give a precise figure.

UN agencies said in Nairobi last Tuesday that they feared the worst was yet to come as rains blamed on the El Nino phenomenom, a cyclical warm water stream in the Pacific, lash east Africa, killing scores of people, displacing thousands of others, washing out roads and bridges, and inundating farmland.

"If the rains continue to be as heavy as they have been in the past week, we could be looking at a major crisis," UN World *Food Programme (WFP) director for Somalia Burk Oberle told a press conference in the Kenyan capital.

The flooding in southern Somalia -- following drought -- will result in epidemics and long-term food shortages if it continues, Oberle said.

"The floods are killing and displacing people and destroying the entire harvest of Somalia's breadbasket regions," he said. "We are speaking about millions of dollars for delivery of food and essential medical items for the needy people affected by the floods in the last 10 days."

Using helicopters to establish an air bridge for food and other supplies "may be one option," Oberle said. More than 50,000 hectares (120,000 acres) of farming land have been devastated by the floods in Somalia, said Renato Maral, who works for the WFP's food security assessment unit for Somalia.

Maral said the water had destroyed 30,000 tonnes of maize worth 4,500,000 dollars. Vegetables, sesame plants and other cash crops vital to the livelihood of Bantu farmers in the war-torn Horn of African nation had also been wrecked, he said.

Lynn Geldof, information officer for the UN children's programme UNICEF, said women and children under five were the main victims of the floods.

The flooding was also reactivating diseases such as diarrhoea and malaria, she said, and UNICEF did not rule out the possibility of a cholera outbreak as sanitation facilities were washed away.

Also:

"Aid agencies appeal for helicopters, boats to save Somali flood victims"

NAIROBI, Nov. 9, 1997-- (AFP) - International relief agencies appealed Sunday for helicopters and boats to evacuate victims and deliver urgent relief supplies to an estimated 100,000 families displaced by floods in southwest Somalia.

Torrential rain and flooding in the Shabelle and Jubba river valleys have resulted in the deaths 23 people over the past two weeks.

"Unless we get helicopters and boats now, immediately, we may as well hang out hats to it. Instead of saving lives, we will be helping to bury the dead. Thousands will die," said Agostino Paganini, the inter-agency resposne coordinator for Somalia, in astatement released here.

The statement said people were drowning and were threatened with hunger, hypothermia, malaria, diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections.

"The response team's plan of operation is in place, a lot of relief equipment and food rations are ready to go, but what we absolutely lack is the means of getting these things to the affected population," said Paganini.

"We get daily calls for help and we can do nothing about them unitl we get the helicopters and boats," he added. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the International Committee of the Red Cross and other non-governmental organisations arecoordinating the joint response effort.

More than 50,000 hectares (120,000 acres) of farming land have been devastated by the floods, Renato Maral, who works for the WFP's food security assessment unit for Somalia, said last week. The torrential rains, which began in mid-October and could have been caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon, have caused the JubaRiver in southern Somalia to burst its banks in several locations.

The river, southern Somalia's main water source, runs for 600 kilometres (375 miles). It is used by thousands of farmers for irrigating their agricultural fields.

Metereological reports indicate that the heavy rains were expected to continue.

Also:

"2,500 People homeless after floods in Ethiopia"

ADDIS ABABA - November 10, 1997 -- (Reuters) - Some 2,500 people were this week rendered homeless after floods hit their district in the Ethiopian lowlands, the Ethiopia News Agency (ENA) reported on Saturday.

ENA said that the overflowing Megale, Awra and Beriso rivers in the lowland Afar region -- where rains are usually scarce -- had forced evacuations from the area.

ENA said no deaths were reported after the floods. A hospital and a health centre in the area were submerged by the floods and medicines and medical equipment were destroyed.

Floods in Ethiopia's lowland Somali region bordering Kenya and Somalia killed 57 people and left more than 4,000 homeless nearly two weeks ago, according to local media.

A Somali radio reported on Friday that at least 23 people had been killed by floods southwest of the country. Floods have also killed more than 30 people and destroyed property estimated at millions of dollars in Kenya.

(c) Reuters Limited 1997

Also:

"Floods Kill 1,000 in Somalia"

(AP) - Nov. 15, 1997 -- A month of flooding in southern Somalia has killed at least 1,000 people, wiped out the region's staple sorghum crop and left hundreds of thousands of Somalis hungry and homeless.

Aid officials said the death toll was sure to rise, along with flood waters that threatned to inundate the few remaining usable airstrips needing for delivering food and medicin.

The UN World Food Program said more than 148,200 acres of prime agricultural land had been flooded and the entire sorghum crop destroyed.