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Rescuers Search for Survivors of Ethiopia Flooding


Rescuers are continuing to search for survivors, after flash floods on Saturday in eastern Ethiopia killed at least 200 people and left some 300 others missing. Ethiopia's Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Office say it expects the death toll to continue to rise.

Aid workers say they have joined residents around the town of Dire Dawa, 500 kilometers east of the capital, Addis Ababa, in a desperate search through mud and debris to find survivors, and to reclaim the bodies of those killed in the disaster.

The majority of the victims are said to be women and children, who were unable to escape from their poorly constructed shacks alongside the riverbanks.

As many as 10,000 people in the area are believed to have been left homeless.

On Monday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi visited Dire Dawa to offer condolences to residents. He promised that his government would do all it can to help survivors, and assist in the town's recovery and reconstruction.

The banks of the Dechatu and Dire Dawa rivers burst late on Saturday night, sweeping away entire families as they slept in their homes. The flood has caused massive damage to electricity lines, and severed the main road link from the town of Dire Dawa to Addis Ababa, hampering relief efforts.

A representative from the International Committee of the Red Cross, Leonardo Gonçalves, visited Dire Dowa on Sunday. He says his organization is working alongside a special disaster committee that has been set up to look after the survivors.

"There are some emergency stocks in the Ethiopian Red Cross in Addis, and these emergency stocks can be immediately transferred to Dire Dowa, as soon as they have the exact knowledge of the needs," he said. "There are many homes that have been destroyed, they are still working on the numbers. And for the moment, I understand that, in some schools, people have been given refuge."

The lowland area of Ethiopia, near the border of Somalia, is a high risk area for flash floods in the rainy season, which lasts from June to September. Last year's floods claimed more than 200 lives and displaced over 260,000 people.

The floods follow a devastating drought in East Africa, which had threatened the lives of 15 million people in five countries, including Ethiopia and in neighboring Somalia and Kenya.