190 dead in Ethiopia floods

Monday, August 7, 2006

At least 190 people have been confirmed dead after heavy rains caused a river to burst its banks in the eastern Ethiopian city of Dire Dawa. A further 300 are reported missing.

Rescuers have been digging all weekend with just hand tools and garden equipment, although bulldozers have also been used to shift tons of mud. Disaster management teams are expected to reach the city today.

The river Dechatu flooded on Saturday night after exceptionally heavy rains. Over 200 homes were destroyed and many died instantly as their houses were swept away as they slept. Of the confirmed dead so far, nearly 40 were children.

94 people injured in the immediate aftermath were treated in hospital before returning to the remains of their homes.

Regional police inspector Beniam Fikru said that some of the dead were already being buried, but identifying bodies was difficult. “Relatives are reporting that 300 people are missing,” he said, “but the search goes on.”

Dire Dawa, 500km east of the capital Addis Ababa, is the country’s second largest city. While the death toll is expected to rise, over 15,000 people had been displaced from the city’s 250,000-strong population. On Friday, over 1,000 people were rescued from villages as rains swept through the south of the country.

Flooding is a regular occurrence in the June-August rainy season and Dire Dawa has been struck before. 45 people were killed in the city in flash floods last summer, some reportedly by crocodiles in the floodwaters.


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