Ethiopia’s unwelcomed results of rain after long deadly drought

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Three rivers in the Gambella region of western Ethiopia have burst their banks following torrential rains that fell in the area for three consecutive days, government officials in the area said.

“We have not yet finalised our assessment, however, an estimated 10,000 to 11,000 people have been displaced,” Akway Abala, team leader for the Disaster Prevention and Food Security Department of Gambella region, said on 22 August.

A flash flood, he added, had occurred in Lare woreda (district) after the heavy downpour that lasted from 16 to 19 August. Villages in another woreda, Itang, which is located 53km west of Gambella town, were also swept away by a flood on 12 August after the Pukong river burst its banks.

“Residents of the villages [have fled] to the highlands,” Akway said. “Some of them have sheltered with their relatives and others have made temporary huts. After we finalize our assessment, we will appeal for aid from the federal government or other non-governmental organizations.”

Gambella has been repeatedly affected by flash floods whenever rivers draining down to the region from the western highlands of Ethiopia fill up and burst their banks.

”The latest reports of a flash flood have come as Ethiopia grapples with a food crisis affecting several million people”.Other regions of Ethiopia have also been affected. In April 2007, several houses were damaged by flood waters in the eastern town of Dire Dawa, 515km from Addis Ababa, after heavy rains pounded the area.

The floods swept over the Addis Ketema and Decahtu suburbs, but there were no reports of casualties. In August 2006, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia’s second-largest town with a population of 400,000, was again hit by flash flooding in which at least 250 people died and nearly 10,000 were forced to leave their homes. That flood prompted the town’s administration to build sand banks in the Decahtu, Ashwa, and Hafcat.

The latest reports of a flash flood have come as Ethiopia grapples with a food crisis affecting several million people, as a result of drought, rising global food and fuel prices and poor rains.

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