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West Africans Seek Shelter from Floods, Brace for More


For the past few weeks, pounding rains across Sub-Saharan Africa have killed about 100 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, leaving many families homeless. While humanitarian workers struggle to take care of flood victims, they fear the worst is yet to come. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

A few weeks ago, Mauritania's president asked people to pray for rain. Aid officials, fearing widespread famine, had started planning for what appeared to be a drought.

Now, humanitarian organizations are rushing disaster relief but for flooding instead.

Mauritania is still recovering from a deadly flood that hit 10 days ago, displacing some 10,000 people. Aid streaming into the country includes blankets, mats, tents and latrines.

Mauritania's government has launched a multi-million dollar appeal for aid to the southeast region, which includes some 75,000 people.

Ahmed Ould Magueya says he cannot remember a storm as bad as the one that hit his village, Tintane, a town at the foot of a mountain.

The 70-year-old merchant says the small table he had for selling oranges floated away. Magueya says he is also a livestock herder and that his cages, full of animals, also disappeared. He says he has no where to live or to work because he lost his home, his table and his animals.

The president of the non-profit International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Mauritania, Ahmed Ahmed Aida, says he cannot remember the last time the country suffered from storms this severe.

After seeing the destruction, Aida says the village of Tintane no longer exists. He says all the shops and health centers are destroyed.

Elsewhere in Africa, heavy rains last week in southwest Chad killed three people, thousands of livestock and washed away about five thousand homes.

Guilhem Molinie is a physician directing a team of health workers from the non-profit Doctors Without Borders. They are checking damage from flooding in southwestern Chad. He says the number of rainy days has been surprising.

"The number of rainy days has actually exploded. It was just last year 16 days in August which is few, but this year we are already at 35 days of rain, the east of Chad, a deserted region," he said.

Molinie says health workers are preparing for the worst part of the rainy season.

"We have to follow closely the evolution of the situation, because the rains can continue for a month and the situation could change quickly," he said.

The doctor says the team has found several cases of malaria and diarrhea across the country, but there are no diagnosed cases yet of cholera, a bacterial infection spread through contaminated water. Cholera can result in death due to dehydration.

Next door to Chad in Sudan, officials say a cholera outbreak killed about 50 people during the recent rains. Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese have lost their livestock and their homes in the widespread flooding.

Flooding has has also cut roads in Mali, left sewage-infected water wells in Ivory Coast, and thousands homeless in Burkina Faso and Niger.

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