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West Africa Hit by Devastating Floods


West Africa is experiencing particularly severe flooding this year, with some 350,000 people affected in six countries. The United Nations reports Burkina Faso is the worst affected. The floods also have spread to Ghana, Niger, Guinea, Senegal and Benin.

UN aid agencies say this year's flooding across West Africa may match the severity of the floods that occurred in 2007. Those killed some 300 people and displaced 800,000.

This year's toll has not reached that level. But the torrential rains have not stopped. They are expected to continue for several more weeks, enough time to add to the already extensive damage that has occurred.

UN Humanitarian spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs says Burkina Faso has been the hardest hit. She says at least five people have been killed and 110,000 forced to flee their homes, mainly in the capital, Ouagadougou.

"The rain in Burkina Faso during one year represents 1,200 millimeters," said Byrs. "In one day in Ouagadougou, the rain represented 300 millimeter for one day."

That means that one-quarter of Burkina Faso's annual rainfall happened in just one day. Byrs says this is extremely worrying as more rain and more flooding is sure to occur. She says the country has not yet recovered from the economic losses suffered in 2007.

Yet now, she says, people once again are faced with extensive crop losses and the loss of cattle from drowning. She says infrastructure has been badly damaged. Electricity in the capital has been cut off. Roads and bridges have been washed away.

"And, all those public buildings," said Byrs. "In particular, the main hospital in Ouagadougou has been flooded and patients have been evacuated these days. You have floods in the corridor. Sixty children who were in this hospital have been evacuated. It is another strain on the economic life of this country."

Concern is rising about an outbreak of water-borne diseases. Diarrhea is already on the rise.

Byrs says Ghana also has been hit hard by, what she calls, the deluge. She says 25 people died from the bad weather and from the floods. She adds the death toll is likely to increase in the coming days.

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