Heavy rains kill at least 43 people in eastern Algeria

Sebastien Carliez in Amman
The Algerian Red Crescent has sent relief items and mobilized First Aid volunteers after heavy rains and flash floods killed at least 43 people in the country's eastern provinces over the past ten days. Twenty tonnes of assistance including blankets, clothes, buckets, tins of food, oil, coffee and milk for infants, were released from Algerian Red Crescent emergency stocks, and sent by trucks from the capital Algiers to the hardest hit areas.

"Volunteers in our local committees immediately went to the affected sites to assist victims as hundreds were made homeless after losing everything they had in the rains," explained Hind Boukhroufa, the Red Crescent's spokesperson. More than 450 families were affected by the disaster. "People in the affected communities are trying to do their best, despite the chaos created in some areas where roads, bridges and telephone lines were completely wiped out," said Boukhroufa, adding that "two Red Crescent teams were sent from Algiers to help assess the situation in the field and plan for longer-term aid to the population."

A total of 18 wilayas (provinces) were affected across the country. The six hardest hit were in eastern Algeria where heavy rains had fallen since 21 August causing the flash floods that took place earlier this week. In the wilaya of Mila, 15 children died last Monday as they were caught up in flooded wadis. More lives were lost in similar circumstances in the wilayas of Souk Ahras, Tebessa, Oum El-Bouaghi and Guelma. "Water levels rise very swiftly in these wadis, and can sweep up anything that comes in its way, even humans, cattle and flimsy constructions," explained Michel Paris, the Federation's programme coordinator in Algeria.

Three humanitarian planes carrying 13 tonnes of medicines and blankets arrived on Wednesday from neighbouring Morocco. The distribution of these humanitarian supplies was organized by local authorities in the affected areas, in close coordination with the Red Crescent. "The International Federation is on standby to launch an appeal if necessary," Paris commented.

In November 2001, torrential rains and strong winds causing flooding and mudslides left as many as 880 people dead and some 30,000 homeless in Algiers and 13 other regions of the country. With the support of the International Federation, the Algerian Red Crescent then provided over 6,450 families with food, water, medicines, clothes, blankets and other shelter materials.