SOMALIA: Thousands affected as floods cut off area in Puntland

Published: May 25, 2010

Thousands of people in the district of Alula, in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, have been cut off by floods following heavy rains, say officials.
“For five days, Alula town and the villages around it have been cut off,” Mohamed Said Kashawiito, director-general of Puntland’s Ministry of Interior, said. “The only way into Alula now is by air or sea.”
However, Kashawiito said the wet conditions had made the town’s airstrip unsafe. Alula town is 560km east of Bosasso, Puntland’s commercial capital.
He said at least 2,500 families (about 15,000 people) had been affected by the rains and subsequent flooding.
So far, two people have been reported to have died due to the floods.
Heavy rains, accompanied by gale-force winds, have also cut telecommunication links and destroyed the only two roads to the area, Kashawiito said.
He said telecommunications companies were trying to reconnect the area. “Our only way of communicating now is via VHF radio.”
Beldaje Ismail Beldaje, the area’s most senior traditional elder, said the rains – which have been pounding the area for seven consecutive days – had now abated.
Beldaje said the rain and strong winds had destroyed homes and killed livestock.
“At least 200 homes have been destroyed and an untold number of livestock has been taken by the floods,” he said, adding that even camels had been washed out to sea.
He said some of the villages were cut off from each another: “It is not just the outside that has been cut off from the area; we don’t know what is happening in some of the villages.”
He said storms had also destroyed date and Frankincense trees. “Many people depend on those trees for their livelihoods,” he said. “I don’t know how many of the trees were destroyed but it will be a blow to our economy.”
Beldaje appealed for immediate help from both “the government and the aid agencies. They must reach the people before things deteriorate.”
Kashawiito said authorities in Puntland were trying to send help to the area but access was difficult. “Trucks carrying help are unable to reach Alula,” he said.
He said those affected by the floods urgently needed water and shelter material. The floods destroyed the two boreholes in the area.
“The storm has caused a lot of damage but we will only know how bad [it is when] we get there,” Kashawiito said.
He said many people were at the mercy of the elements. “We have reports of people crammed in the houses that survived. I don’t know how long they can stay that way.”

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