UN reports extensive flooding damage in central Somalia

May 16, 2023 GMT
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Men walk through floodwaters on a street in the town of Beledweyne, in Somalia Monday, May 15, 2023. Estimates from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs are that 460,000 people have been affected by flooding caused by heavy rains since mid-March. (AP Photo)
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Men walk through floodwaters on a street in the town of Beledweyne, in Somalia Monday, May 15, 2023. Estimates from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs are that 460,000 people have been affected by flooding caused by heavy rains since mid-March. (AP Photo)

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Floods caused by the annual rains have left “a trail of destruction” across Somalia, a United Nations spokesman said, citing inundated homes and farmland as well as the shutdown of health facilities.

“According to early estimates by our partners, more than 460,000 people have been impacted, including nearly 219,000 men, women and children who have been displaced due to this (flooding),” Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

At least five people, including three children, have been killed in the flooding, Mohamed Moalim of the Somalia National Disaster Management Agency told The Associated Press.

The destruction is greatest in the Hiiraan region of the central Somali state of Hirshabelle. Thousands of families have been displaced in Beledweyne, the regional city with the highest population density. The Shabelle river running through the town burst its banks amid heavy rainfall.

If the rains persist in Somalia and in the Ethiopian highlands, “we estimate that up to 1.6 million people could be impacted, with more than 600,000 displaced,” Dujarric said.

Rising water levels in Beledweyne forced the closure of many important facilities, including government offices and the main hospital, residents said. Some said the flooding was the worst they had ever seen.

“It was very difficult for me to walk this morning because of the amount of water,” said Beledweyne resident Abdifitah Ahmed. “As you can see, this situation is getting worse as the amount of water increases.”

Another resident, Hussein Yusuf, said that the damage to property is extensive. “This flood is larger than any flooding in recent memory that has ever occurred in this region,” he said.

The Horn of Africa nation, one of the world’s poorest, faces multiple crises. Other parts of Somalia face drought conditions, and there’s an ongoing insurgency by Islamic extremist fighters opposed to the federal government in the capital, Mogadishu.