265 perish in floods as rains batter East Africa

Updated 06 Dec 2019

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Two months of relentless rains have submerged villages and farms and sent rivers of mud crashing into houses across East Africa, with at least 265 killed, according to an AFP tally, as meteorologists warn of more to come. — AFP via Arab News
Two months of relentless rains have submerged villages and farms and sent rivers of mud crashing into houses across East Africa, with at least 265 killed, according to an AFP tally, as meteorologists warn of more to come. — AFP via Arab News

NAIROBI: Two months of relentless rains have submerged villages and farms and sent rivers of mud crashing into houses across East Africa, with at least 265 killed, according to an AFP tally, as meteorologists warn of more to come.

The extreme downpours have affected close to two million people and washed away tens of thousands of livestock in Kenya, Somalia, Burundi, Tanzania, South Sudan, Uganda, Djibouti and Ethiopia.

With a tropical storm headed for Somalia and more rain forecast across the region in the coming weeks, fears are rising over waterborne diseases and the prospect of hunger as crops are destroyed.

In Burundi, 38 people died on Wednesday night after heavy rains triggered landslides that swept through hillside communities in the northwest of the country, according to a provisional police toll on Thursday.

Kenya has been hard hit with 132 killed and 17,000 displaced, schools, roads, and health centres flooded, and water systems clogged across the country, government spokesman Cyrus Oguna said in a statement on Tuesday.

In South Sudan, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said nearly a million people have been affected by floodwaters which submerged whole towns, compounding an already dire humanitarian situation after six years of war.

Flooding has also affected 570,000 people in Somalia, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

In Tanzania, 55 people have died, according to an AFP tally of police figures, including 30 in flash floods in the northeast in October, 15 whose car was swept away by floodwaters in the town of Tanga, and 10 who drowned last month in northern Mwanza.

In Uganda, eight people have died and over 80,000 have been displaced by flooding and mudslides this week, Disaster Preparedness Minister Musa Ecweru said in a statement.

Ethiopia has also been affected,with 22 people dying in a landslide in the south of the country in October.

Djibouti has also experienced unusually heavy rains, with a joint government and United Nations press statement reporting that some areas received “the equivalent of 2 years of rainfall occurred in one day” in heavy downpours two weeks ago.

The extreme weather is blamed on the Indian Ocean Dipole — a climate system defined by the difference in sea surface temperature between the western and eastern areas of the ocean.

Scientists say the strength of this dipole is of a magnitude not seen in years, perhaps even decades.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2019