News24

West Africa floods claim 159

2009-09-09 12:35

Dakar - Killer floods have ravaged a dozen west African countries since June, leaving 159 people dead and making life miserable for hundreds of thousands, a United Nations agency said on Tuesday.

"Nearly 600 000 people are affected by the floods following heavy rains that have poured down on west Africa and caused the deaths of 159 people since June," the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in Dakar.

The hardest-hit countries include Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger and Sierra Leone.

In Senegal, where more than 264 000 people have been affected by the floods, the government released $4.4m for the recovery effort.

Worrisome situation

A couple and their child became the latest victims of the floods in central Senegal on Monday when their horse-drawn carriage flipped over, throwing them into a swollen river, according to an official in their village of Keur Ali Maram.

The Burkinabe government appealed for international aid after the disaster killed eight people and left 150 000 homeless. In the capital Ouagadougou, nearly 25 000 homes collapsed on September 1 alone.

The floods have affected nearly 67 000 people in Niger, 55 000 others in Ghana and 20 000 in Benin, according to Ocha.

"It is a very worrisome situation which further weakens populations that are already destitute," said the head of the Ocha regional office in Dakar, Herve Ludovic de Lys.

Durable effect

"Natural disasters have a durable effect that settles in for several decades and reduces to ashes years of efforts in the fight against poverty," he said.

The head of the UN Development Programme in Dakar, Bouri Sanhouidi, said climate change was partly to blame for the heavy rains that triggered the disaster.

But the problem also lies in the lack of preparedness and bad urban planning in west African towns and cities, he said.

"Most of our countries and cities are not prepared to face this kind of catastrophe," Sanhouidi said.

"Many cities have been overwhelmed by the massive arrival of populations seeking a better life who settled down in an anarchical manner in flood zones," he said.