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Last Updated: Monday, 7 August 2006, 07:25 GMT 08:25 UK
Scores killed in Ethiopia floods
Ethiopia floodwaters
The Dechatu river overflowed, sweeping water through the city
Almost 200 people are reported to have died after a river burst its banks and floodwaters swept through the city of Dire Dawa in eastern Ethiopia.

The local police commissioner said 39 of the dead were young children.

Officials said hundreds of homes were destroyed when the Dechatu river overflowed on Saturday night.

Over the past two years flooding has afflicted several areas of eastern and southern Ethiopia, killing hundreds and displacing hundreds of thousands.

'Washed away'

A heavy downpour hit Dire Dawa city, some 500km east of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, in the early hours of Saturday, residents told news agency AFP.

Map

"My home is situated a bit far from the river, I was in bed when I heard people shouting," said 45-year-old Abaye Baheru.

"I opened the door, and the water burst in, forcing me to escape to the rooftop from where police rescued me, but my house and property were destroyed.

"While on the rooftop, I saw men, women and children being washed away, while crying for help," Mr Abaye said.

The floods also swept away vehicles and livestock, and destroyed markets and shops, witnesses said.

Thousands of Dire Dawa's estimated 250,000 residents have been displaced by the flooding.

Damaged structure caused by floodwater
The flooding has caused mass destruction

"The death toll from the flood caused by the overflow in Dire Dawa reached 191 by 8.30 pm (1730 GMT)," regional Dire Dawa Police Commissioner Getachew Asres said.

He said 39 of the dead were children aged under seven years.

Flooding often hits low-lying parts of Ethiopia during the June-to-September rainy season.

Last year at least 200 people were killed - some by crocodiles in the floodwaters - when heavy rains pounded the same region.

The flooding also caused millions of dollars worth of damage, particularly to small farmers.


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