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Friday, November 12, 1999 Published at 12:41 GMT

World: Africa

Thousands homeless in Congo floods

By West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle

Tens of thousands of people have been severely affected by flooding in northern Congo-Brazzaville.

Unusually heavy rains have caused the River Congo and its tributaries to burst, making many people homeless.

Flooding has also affected Congo-Brazzaville's southern neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the nearby Central African Republic.

Towns and villages have been flooded, bridges have been washed away and in many parts of northern Congo-Brazzaville, crops are rotting in the fields.

Government officials in the capital, Brazzaville, speak of hundreds of thousands of dispossessed.

That is probably an exaggeration to attract foreign aid, but the situation is certainly dramatic.

Congolese TV has shown pictures of burst rivers which have devastated villages and fields.

Town under water

The International Committee of the Red Cross has visited the northern Congolese town of Owando and said that parts of it are submerged.

Fishing communities along the River Congo, which runs through central Africa, are among the worst affected. Dugout canoes have been lost and fish stocks dispersed.

Congolese officials say there is a danger of cholera and other diseases caused by already poor sanitation exacerbated by the floods.

The ability of the Brazzaville Government to address the situation is severely hampered by the war between government and rebel forces which continues in the south and centre of the country.

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