Djibouti: Repairs start as torrential rains subside

DJIBOUTI, 19 April (IRIN) - The Djibouti government has deployed hundreds of workers to repair the electricity, telephone and water supply systems in the capital, Djibouti City, that were damaged when heavy rains pounded the country last week.
Government officials said on Monday that at least 53 people were confirmed killed by floods. Another 1,500 were rendered homeless by widespread flooding after the Ambouli River burst its banks on 12 April. Many of the homeless, including Somali and Oromo refugees from neighbouring countries, had been living in the river's wadis, or dry watercourses.

The United Nations, which sent an assessment mission to Djibouti, said in a statement on 16 April that at least 100,000 people had been affected by the floods.

Railway traffic between Djibouti and the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, remained disrupted. The railway line, which had been carrying at least 700 mt of food to the port city of Djibouti each week, was still closed after flood waters swept away parts of the line.

Most of the vegetables, fruits and potatoes coming into Djibouti on Monday arrived by road. Prices remained fairly stable, traders told IRIN, but there were fears that if the line was not reopened soon, prices could be affected.

Officials last week said that following the torrential rains, the government had decided to revive an earlier plan to permanently relocate people living within the wadis of the main rivers to higher ground, where they would be safer from flooding.

The USAID-funded Famine Early Warning System (FEWS-Net) said over 100 mm of rainfall inundated much of the tiny Horn of Africa country over two days. That rainfall accumulation, FEWS-Net added, approached Djibouti's normal annual total.

The director of the main hospital, Aden Deleita, told IRIN that medical personnel had taken precautions to ensure that any disease outbreak could be contained. "A lot of drowned cattle and other debris are submerged and, and as the water subsides, the corpses will begin to rot. We fear a possible outbreak of cholera or malaria," he said.


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