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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 November 2006, 16:42 GMT
African flood rescue gathers pace
Map of Horn of Africa
International aid agencies have launched a massive relief operation to help 1.8 million people affected by heavy flooding in the Horn of Africa.

Large areas of central and southern Somalia have been flooded after several weeks of heavy rains. Neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia are also affected.

Crocodiles in Somalia killed at least nine people after floodwaters swept them into villages, reports say.

At least 80 people in the region have died in the last three weeks.

The UN has said the floods could be the worst in the region for 50 years.

Crocodile-infested waters

Several rivers have burst their banks, washing out roads and destroying bridges.

Particularly hard hit have been the areas around the Shebelle and Juba rivers in southern Somalia.

The region contains some of the most productive farmland in the country.

The Shebelle river has flooded its banks, affecting towns and villages in a swathe of territory stretching hundreds of kilometres.

A UN aid worker on high ground near Beledweyne in Somalia told the BBC Somali service he could see people climbing trees or fleeing the town as it became flooded with crocodile-infested waters.

The interim government of Somalia, based in Baidoa, has appealed for international help.

The Islamic militia which controls much of the south of the country, including the capital Mogadishu, has also asked for help, Reuters news agency said.

Refugee camps flooded

Floodwaters from the Juba river in Somalia and the Tana river in Kenya have combined to inundate a large region of north-eastern Kenya.

Washed out bridge in Kenya
Roads and bridges have been washed out by floodwaters
Three camps in the area, housing 80,000 refugees from the conflict in Somalia, have been cut off.

The UN refugee agency has begun airlifting emergency supplies to the camps, at Daabad near the border with Somalia, and has ordered its staff to move to higher ground. A dam on the Tana river, south of the town of Garissa, is close to bursting, the UN said on Friday.

Much of Garissa is underwater and 20 people are missing, AFP news agency reported.

In western Kenya, a hippo went berserk and killed six people after floods washed it into the town of Busia, Elizabeth Byrs from the UN's humanitarian affairs agency told AP news agency.

The heavy rains in the Horn of Africa follow a long drought that has dried the ground and left it unable to soak up large amounts of rainfall.

Crops already blighted by the drought have now been destroyed by the flooding.

"We are facing a disaster where many people will die not only of floods, but also of diseases and food shortages," a Somali government spokesman told AFP.

Heavy rains are expected to continue for several more weeks.


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