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Sunday, 18 November, 2001, 00:54 GMT
Algeria army helps flood victims
Algerian soldiers help clear the debris in the Bab El Ooued district of Algiers
Soldiers are helping to clear tons of mud
By BBC North Africa correspondent David Bamford

The Algerian army has joined in the clear-up operation in the centre of the capital, Algiers, one week after a two-day long heavy rainstorm created an unprecedented build-up of water and mud that swept into low lying parts of the city.

The number of bodies recovered so far has gone above 700, of which 600 were found in one working class district, Bab el-Oued.

The government is continuing to come in for criticism over its slow reaction but there has been praise for hundreds of local volunteers and foreign rescue teams.

Man in tears while searching for missing relatives
Algerian media says the final death toll could be more than 1,000
Army trucks have been rumbling through the Algerian capital for the first time since the political emergency of the mid-1990s when Islamist violence was at its height in the city.

This time the operation is humanitarian as the army moves in heavy equipment to clear away tons of mud and debris from the streets of Bab el-Oued.

People power

The Algerian media has been complaining about the slow reaction of the state and praising the work carried out by recovery teams sent in by their immediate neighbours, Morocco and Tunisia.

There is also much comment about what the newspapers are calling "people power" - the hundreds of local volunteers who, since last Saturday, have been emulating the efforts of ordinary Americans in New York immediately after the World Trade Center attacks.

It is also been noted that there is no sign in Algiers of the previously well organised Islamic Salvation Front sending in its own volunteers to help out.

This contrasts with the aftermath of the 1989 earthquake just west of Algiers in which Islamist volunteers and charities upstaged the slow moving state apparatus to take over the rescue and rehabilitation process, earning the Salvation Front much political support.

The Interior Ministry says 500 families have already been rehoused elsewhere and aid is coming, but the newspapers are sceptical and show pictures of food aid from abroad stacked in airport hangers and and going nowhere.

The government says it is being unfairly demonised and is doing all it can.

See also:

16 Nov 01 | Middle East
Algerian flood deaths 'could top 1,000'
13 Nov 01 | Middle East
Appeal for Algerian flood victims
13 Nov 01 | Middle East
Algerians angry over flood deaths
12 Nov 01 | Middle East
Algerians accuse president
06 Nov 01 | Americas
Algeria seeks strategic role
05 Nov 01 | Business
Algeria woos investment
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