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Liberia's Heavy Rains Leave Many Thirsty for Clean Water

More than a 250,000 residents of Liberia's capital, Monrovia, have been overwhelmed by water from torrential rains and flooding from the nearby St. Paul River. The rains have left them without safe drinking water for three days. Hundreds have also been made homeless. Officials say they are working to restore drinking water and provide help to the displaced residents. Naomi Schwarz has more from Dakar with additional reporting by Prince Collins in Monrovia.

August typically represents a lull in tropical Liberia's rainy season. The West African country sees the highest rainfall from June to July and again from September to October.

But this year, August has not been a dry month.

Heavy rains last Saturday and Sunday have inundated the coastal capital, Monrovia. Daily downpours since then have only made the situation worse.

Water levels reached more than two meters in some neighborhoods near the St. Paul River. Residents walked away from flooded areas carrying their possessions en route to friends or relatives' homes in other parts of the capital.

The floods also affected the city's water treatment plant, which pipes safe drinking water to more than a 250,000 residents, says Honubu Turay, managing director of the state-owned Liberia Water and Sewage Corporation.

"There is a backflow in the water treatment plant and as a result the pump room is flooded which means all of the equipment are under water," Turay said. "And therefore, we suspended the operation of those equipment until we can drain the water and have the equipment properly serviced."

Water was cut off around five in the morning on Monday. Turay says his crew has been working hard ever since to bring the plant back on line.

"We are doing everything possible to drain the water," Turay said. "The first thing we did, we put in three dewatering pumps, which are being used now to drain the water. Now, the purpose of that is we have to be able to pump more water out than is coming in."

He says he hopes to be able to supply clean drinking water by the end of the week. But he says, in the meantime, he hopes residents will be
able to draw on household reserves, and he advises them to conserve clean water for cooking and drinking.

Anna Brown says the government needs to act quickly to restore water.

"There is difficulty in getting water around here," Brown said. "This morning I have to walk far away from my community just to get safe and clean drinking water for my family and I. I wish that some days the government would put serious attention to this so that we can have safe drinking water in this community."

Liberia is still rebuilding four years after a decade-plus civil war brutalized the country. The government, under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has been working to restore and repair public services, like national electricity, which were interrupted and damaged by the war.