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November 13, 2013

Officials Fear Somalia Cyclone Death Toll May Reach 300

by VOA News

Officials in Somalia's Puntland region say they fear as many as 300 people have died after a cyclone brought days of high winds and flooding rains.
 
The government said on Wednesday that many people remain missing following the storm, which made landfall Saturday and destroyed a large number of homes thoroughout the area.
 
Cape Guardufui, in northeastern Puntland, and the town of Eyl were among the areas hit hardest by the storm.
 
The government has declared a state of emergency and asked for international aid to help those in need of food, water, shelter and medicine.
 
Latest rainfall data show the cyclone has subsided after flooding several coastal towns and the Puntland capital, Garowe, though heavy rains are still expected inland.
 
“So far we have confirmed the storm killed 140 people. We are afraid the death toll may reach 300 because many people are still missing. Roads have been cut and the only access to those areas is by air,” Abdullahi Ahmed, Puntland's interior minister, told media late on Tuesday.
 
Somalia's President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, whose country is struggling to rebuild after two decades of civil war, has pledged to send $1 million dollars to the storm-hit region.
 
Flash Floods
 
Puntland said in August it had cut ties with Mogadishu, accusing it of refusing to share power and foreign aid.
 
The region spans the north of Somalia and has largely escaped the worst of the country's upheaval over the last 20 years. Foreign powers advocating a loose federal political system for Somalia have held Puntland up as a possible model.
 
The cyclone's heavy torrential rains caused flash floods that led to the loss of a great deal of livestock and many fishing boats, which were swept into the Indian Ocean.
 
The FAO said about 65 percent of Somalia's population depends on livestock, a sector that has seen sharp growth since Arab Gulf States lifted a nine-year ban on Somali livestock exports. Half of these exports pass through the port of Bosasso, in Puntland.
 
Famine has added to Somalia's woes in the last three years.
 
“Knowing that livestock and fisheries are key livelihood activities in the affected regions, we anticipate the storm to heavily hurt coastal communities,” said Rudi Van Aaken, the acting head of FAO in Somalia, pledging help for the survivors.
Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.