Sunday, April 24, 2005

Up to 40 Dead as Ethiopia River Bursts Banks

A river swelled by non-stop rain burst its banks in eastern Ethiopia, killing up to 40 people and leaving many homeless, officials said on Sunday.

"Many are still hanging on to trees for dear life," Mohammed Admi Abdi, district administrator of West Emi in Ogaden province, said by telephone.

He said the Wabe Shabelle river had burst its banks on Saturday night after 48 hours of continuous heavy rain, flooding or washing away 35 villages in one of the most remote regions of the Horn of Africa country of more than 60 million.

Government officials and voluntary organisations were trying to move the survivors by helicopter, as all roads leading to the area 700 km (440 miles) east of Addis Ababa were under water and impassable. "

The flood caught the people in 35 villages along the banks unawares," Abdi said. "Up to 40 died in their sleep while those were were awake were able to escape."

He said officials of the government, the United Nations and voluntary organisations were meeting in the Ogaden capital of Gode to plan relief operations.

Ethiopia, which was hit by intense droughts during the 1980s that killed nearly a million people, is in the midst of a rainy season.

Reuters AlertNet

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