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Last Updated: Monday, 7 August 2006, 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK
Hundreds lost in Ethiopia flood
Ethiopia floodwaters
The Dechatu river overflowed, sweeping water through the city
Rescuers have been digging through mud and debris, looking for some 300 people still missing after floods in Ethiopia.

They are reportedly digging with hands, garden tools and heavy equipment.

Almost 200 people are thought to have died after a river burst its banks and floodwaters swept through the city of Dire Dawa in the east of the country.

Hundreds of homes were destroyed when the Dechatu river flooded on Saturday. The local police commissioner said 39 of the dead were young children.

"Family members have started burying the dead," regional police Inspector Beniam Fikru told AFP news agency from Dire Dawa, about 500 km from the capital, Addis Ababa.

"In some cases, it is very difficult to identify them.

"Relatives are reporting that around 300 people are missing, but the search goes on," he said.

Damage

Floodwaters damaged telephone and electricity lines and cut off the main road to Addis Ababa, further complicating the rescue efforts.

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

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

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

Flooding often hits low-lying parts of Ethiopia between June and September, when heavy showers fall on regions that are dry for most of the year.

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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