Da The Indipendent del 16/08/2006
Originale su http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=68&art_id...

700 feared dead as rains drench Ethiopia

di Tsegaye Tadesse

Addis Ababa - The death toll from the latest in a series of devastating floods in Ethiopia has risen to 194, state TV said on Wednesday, lifting to around 700 the total feared dead from heavy rains this month.

Thousands also remain stranded in remote regions, cut off by massive floods and desperate for food and shelter.

State TV said in a statement the situation in southern Ethiopia, where the Omo river burst its banks on Sunday, was critical, with 194 bodies now recovered and 6 000 people needing emergency assistance.

"Two army helicopters and 14 motorboats have been deployed to evacuate up to 6 000 people marooned by the floods," it said.

"Bad weather has been hampering rescuers."

After suffering a drought since late last year, heavy rains have been battering Ethiopia in recent weeks.

In the east, the Dechatu river burst its banks last week, killing 254 and leaving 250 missing and feared dead.

Officials and aid workers say the numbers of dead and homeless could turn out to be much higher due to the inaccessibility of the regions worst affected.

The local populations are mainly nomadic herders.

As well as the Omo and Dechatu disasters, officials fear the overflowing Awash River, some 300km east of the capital, could soon burst its banks too.

Some 7 000 people near the riverbank are being evacuated.

The Awash Valley is home to three major sugar estates.

Floods typically occur in lowland areas after heavy rains in the June-August rainy season pelt the country's highlands.

But the situation has been exacerbated by land cultivation, deforestation and overgrazing, aid workers say.

"The rivers in Ethiopia have less capacity to hold as much water as they did years before, because they are being filled up with silt," World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Paulette Jones said.

"It takes less intensity of rainfall... to make a river in any particular part of the country overflow."

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