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Liberia Floods Displace Hundreds


Flooding in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, has affected thousands and left hundreds displaced. The Liberian Minister of Information has placed the blame on global warming and poor construction planning. Brent Latham has more from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.

The Liberian Red Cross reports the flooding has affected over 20,000 people and displaced at least 800 across ten neighborhoods of the capital.

A spokesman for the Red Cross said 500 millimeters of rain fell overnight Saturday and through Sunday. He says the Red Cross is providing food, water, and temporary shelter to those displaced by the flooding.

The Liberian minister of information, Dr. Lawrence Borpleh, says the water is receding as the rains have subsided after several days of torrential downpours. He says the government is attending to those displaced by the floods.

"The Environmental Protection Agency and other functionaries are doing additional assessments as to when and how the people will return, so we continue to provide food and shelter in alternative places for [the displaced]. But we've got some sunshine today and we pray that more and more the water will recede," he said.

Borpleh said he is hopeful those displaced will soon be able to return to their homes, though he worried that those affected by the flooding may have suffered significant property damage.

The minister said many of the flooded areas are low-lying swamps where building should not have taken place to begin with, since water naturally drains into them. He says the government is taking steps to avoid future problems.

"The government, through the Ministry of Public Works and the Environmental Protection Agency are doing a full assessment and will be advising the government in terms of what to do in these areas, A., in terms of drainage systems, and B., in terms of, many of those people in those areas were warned about building in the swamp area and in some areas they ignored the warning," said Borpleh.

Borpleh also suggested that climate change had a role in the swiftness and severity of the flooding.

"This is a bit unusual because the rains are unusually heavy. I think every one of us, we're beginning to feel the effects of global warming. And so from year to year the climate in Liberia shifts. And so the rains came incessantly on Sunday throughout the night and on Saturday night, and so this was a little bit unusual and so it caused rather quick flooding when people were caught unaware," he added.

The population of Monrovia has grown rapidly in recent years as rural dwellers have flocked to the coastal capital in search of economic opportunity.

The greater Monrovia area is estimated to be home to nearly half Liberia's approximately three million inhabitants. Many who have recently moved to Monrovia have built their homes on the low-lying, flood-prone swamps surrounding the city.