SUDAN: Government warns of heavy rains as number of displaced rises

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Sudanese government has warned that heavy rains expected in various parts of the country could lead to further flooding and displacement, but said it was doing all it could to contain the situation.

About 20 people have been killed and 15,000 houses destroyed as flash floods triggered by heavy rains swept through parts of central, eastern and southeastern Sudan, the head of the civil defence authority said on 10 July.

Major General Hamadallah Adam Ali told reporters in the capital, Khartoum, that dozens more people had been injured.

The floods, which have affected North Kordofan and White Nile States in central Sudan, Kassala in the east and Sennar in the southeast, are already worse than last year’s, which killed at least 27 people and destroyed almost 10,000 houses.

Umdowoban, on the eastern outskirts of Khartoum near the Blue Nile, also suffered heavy damage.

On 8 July, President Omar el-Bashir chaired a meeting of the Council of Ministers to review the situation. After the meeting, Omer Muhammed Salih, spokesman for the council, said 4,682 houses had been destroyed in Darfur, Kordofan and various parts of central Sudan.

Sudanese state television has been showing pictures of residents, including women and children, camped on the side of the road after their houses collapsed.

The government has declared a state of alert in the regions hit hardest by the floods and the civil defence authority has been mobilising help for those affected, most of whom have lost almost everything.

Ill prepared

The civil defence authority forecast a severe rainy season this year, based on reports from international weather stations.
Victims accused local authorities of not making the necessary preparations, such as erecting dykes. Officials, on the other hand, blamed residents for ignoring their warnings. “We are afraid that those people who didn’t want to move will be affected this year,” Ali warned.

Some of the houses that collapsed were built in the path of floods or too close to rivers - in violation of the law. “We advised them not to live in these places, not to build in these places,” Ali said.

The civil defence authority said it had already delivered more than 2,700 tents and 4,540 plastic sheets to those affected in various parts of the country. It added that the authority had also sent pumps to help drain water, which residents said was knee-deep and higher in certain areas.

Health officials have warned of disease due to the pools of stagnant water caused by the floods. To cope with the problem, the civil defence authority said it was mobilising equipment to spray the pools.

Last year, the Nile reached levels in Khartoum higher than 1988 and 1946, when the worst floods of the century occurred.

Bashir called for urgent help to be sent to those affected.

On 5 July, the Sudanese Red Crescent sent hundreds of tents to Rabak, south of the city, where flash floods left thousands homeless.

Separately, Alun McDonald, a spokesman for Oxfam, said the charity was helping people in eastern Sudan to prepare for possible flash floods, citing Tokar, one of the worst-hit areas in the east in last year’s floods.

Source: IRIN