May 27, 2024

 AFP, MOGADISHU: Flash flooding in southwestern Somalia has claimed the lives of more than two dozen people and displaced hundreds of thousands from their homes, an official said, as El Nino downpours lash East Africa.

Since the beginning of the month, ferocious rainstorms have hit Somalia and its neighbours Kenya and Ethiopia, triggering landslides and submerging villages and farms.

The flooding comes after Somalia and parts of Ethiopia and Kenya suffered the region’s worst drought in four decades.

“We warned earlier about these rains and predicted this situation was coming,” Mohamed Moalim Abdullahi, chairman of Somalia Disaster Management Agency, said late Tuesday.

At least 29 people have died and about 850,000 others have been affected, Abdullahi said, including over 300,000 who have been uprooted from their homes.

The most affected regions were in the southwest of the strife-weary nation of 17 million people.

The UN humanitarian agency, OCHA, on Wednesday said rescue efforts were being delayed because roads had been cut.

“Inaccessible roads and stuck vehicles are just some of the challenges aid workers in Somalia are grappling with,” it said on X, formerly Twitter.

A joint effort by aid agencies is “racing against time” to rescue 2,400 people trapped by rising flood waters in the town of Luuq, on the road linking the Somalia-Ethiopia border with Baidoa, OCHA added.

Somalia, as much as the Horn of Africa, is considered one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change but is particularly ill-equipped to cope with the crisis as it battles a deadly Islamist insurgency.

El Nino, which triggers higher global temperatures, is expected to last until at least April 2024, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

The World Meteorological Organization highlighted that the phenomenon was occurring in the context of rapid climate change.

Already, at least 15 people have been killed in Kenya due to flash flooding, while more than 20 people have died and over 12,000 been forced from their homes in Ethiopia’s Somali region.

Between October 1997 and January 1998, devastating floods caused by El Nino led to more than 6,000 deaths in five countries in the Horn of Africa.

At least 1,800 people died in Somalia where the Juba River burst its banks.

From October to November 2006, flooding caused by unseasonal rains left more than 140 people dead in Somalia, with many drowned but others killed by crocodiles or succumbing to a malaria epidemic.

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