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Wednesday, October 6, 1999 Published at 18:23 GMT 19:23 UK

World: Africa

Nigeria floods 'worst in 30 years'

Authorities in Nigeria's Niger state say days of flooding have affected at least 300,000 people, submerging hundreds of villages.

"The flooding is a catastrophe," said Niger State spokesman Shaibu Mohammed.

"It is the worst in 30 years. There are hundreds of villages under water, fields of crops under water. People have lost their homes. People have lost their livelihoods," he said.

It is not yet known how many people may have died - although the last estimate was than 39 people had been killed.

The floods began several weeks ago when unusually heavy rains swelled the Niger and Kaduna rivers.

Last week the authorities opened the flood gates of the Kainji Dam which sent more water surging across the lowland plains of the state.

Disease fear

The National Electric Power Authority also opened flood gates at two other dams - Shiroro and Jebba - to prevent them from overflowing.

The authority is now warning that they may have to be opened again.

Niger State Health Commissioner Shen Nuhu Zabgyi said he was concerned by the possible outbreak of diseases.

He said tens of thousands of people had fled their homes and were sheltering on higher ground.

Waters on the Niger River - Africa's second longest - are continuing to rise.

The heavy seasonal rains have also cause flooding in neighbouring Niger, Mali and Senegal.

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