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Sunday, 11 November, 2001, 23:44 GMT
Algeria battles deadly floods
Residents try to tow a car off a flooded road in Dely Ibrahim, near Algiers,
Water crashed through the streets of Algiers
The Algerian Government has announced emergency measures after powerful floods devastated the capital Algiers and several coastal areas over the weekend.

Prime Minister Ali Benflis visited some of the worst-hit areas and promised $300 to every homeless family.

A resident tries to tow his car away from a flooded road in Dely Ibrahim
Many roads are impassable, hampering rescue operations
Rescue teams in the capital, Algiers, are digging out more bodies from under tons of rubble, as the death toll climbs to more than 340.

Hundreds more have been injured, and thousands made homeless.

French rescue workers have been arriving in Algeria to help, and the French Government announced that a cargo plane loaded with 40 tonnes of aid, would leave for Algeria on Monday.

Catastrophe

Mr Benflis said the government would help the victims financially to repair their houses and also provide housing for 1,500 homeless families in the capital.

"What I saw and inspected gave me great pain as I saw people who lost members of their families and their property. I express to them the condolences of the government," he said.

But the country's main newspapers harshly criticised the government and local authorities for failing to take action to ease the impact of the floods despite weather warnings from meteorologists.

A raging torrent of water, mud and debris continues to pour down into the capital from the surrounding hills.

Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni described the situation as a "catastrophe", and issued an appeal for international aid.

He warned that the number of victims was bound to rise as casualty figures came in from outlying areas.

Makeshift morgues have been set up and hospitals have been overwhelmed by the number of victims.

Engulfed in water

Torrential rains began drenching Algiers on Friday, causing water to rush through its streets and buildings to crumble in Bab El Oued, one of the city's poorer neighbourhoods.

Throughout the city, people could be seen wading waist-high in water, trying to get to safety. Many ground-floor apartments have been engulfed.

Rescue services are being hampered as many roads are impassable due to flooding and falling debris.

The deluge came after severe drought in the region, during which harsh water restrictions were imposed.

Only a few weeks ago, religious leaders were calling on people to pray for rain, as the city's reservoirs began to dry up.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Bamford
"Hospitals in the city are overflowing with casualties"
See also:

03 Oct 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Algeria
11 Nov 01 | Middle East
In pictures: Algerian floods
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