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Hopes fade for hundreds missing after killer Ethiopian floods
Cat : Condolences Of Today
Date : 2006-08-10 10:17:58                      Reader : 261

Also technical aid from advanced countries to face non predicted future floods to save human lives .


Associated France Press (AFP) 10/8/2006

Hopes fade for hundreds missing after killer Ethiopian floods


by Abraham Fisseha
ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - Hopes were fading for finding survivors from hundreds of people missing after murderous weekend flash floods devastated a town in eastern Ethiopia, officials and residents have said.

With the death toll from flooding in and around Dire Dawa hovering around 200, they said Tuesday frantic rescue efforts were continuing but conceded chances were slim of locating alive any of the more than 300 people still unaccounted for.

"We are expecting the death toll to increase," Berekat Simon, a senior aide to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, told AFP in the capital, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) west of Dire Dawa.

Police and hospital sources said three more bodies had been recovered on Tuesday bringing the number of dead to 200, but Ethiopian Red Cross officials maintained the toll was at least 210 and possibly as high as 215.

"The toll being given by police and hospitals is for bodies recovered, taken to hospital and confirmed dead there, but between 10 and 15 people were buried by family members before reaching the hospital," Red Cross emergency coordinator Kassahun Debelie told AFP.

Military divers joined the search in the now-receding waters of the two rivers that burst their banks as the operation expanded 40 kilometers (25 miles) downstream, where officials said more bodies might have been washed.

"We have dispatched the army and police as far as 40 kilometers downstream to look for bodies," Dire Dawa police inspector Beniam Fikru told AFP. "We also have divers searching in riverbed waterholes."

"The search is in full-swing downstream," Dire Dawa resident Kassim Ahmed told AFP by phone, adding, however, that relatives of many of the missing had lost faith their family members could be saved.

Kassahun said many families held out hope that bodies of their missing relatives could at least be recovered for burial after the discovery of vehicles in the sand.

"We can see parts of partially buried cars and motorbikes in the riverbed," he said. "People think that some people could be buried in them and that is why they keep searching."

Security forces and aid workers were digging through mud, sand and debris with heavy equipment, smaller garden tools and their hands in a desperate bid to find more survivors. At least 96 people were rescued on Sunday and Monday.

Crowds of people crammed make-shift mortuaries and overwhelmed hospitals in search of the missing while others carried on with the gruesome and emotional task of identifying the dead and burying them, Ahmed said.

On Monday, officials said the death toll from the flooding overnight Saturday had risen from 191, including at least 39 children, many of whom died in their sleep.

Some 10,000 people are believed to have been left homeless by raging waters from two rivers, the Dechatu and Dire Dawa, which broke their banks after heavy rains, and swept through the town and adjacent areas.

As local aid workers distributed food and water to grieving survivors, officials said federal authorities would step up their relief operations.

Berekat said the response to a nationwide appeal for aid had been positive and that the government would make good on Meles’ pledge Monday that flood prevention efforts would be boosted in Dire Dawa.

Ethiopia, a nation of about 70 million people, has frequently been ravaged by natural disasters, notably famine-causing drought.

In the past few years, flooding has affected large areas of eastern and southern Ethiopia, displacing tens of thousands of people and causing damage running into millions of dollars, particularly to agriculture.

Last year, at least 200 people were killed and more than 260,000 displaced when heavy rains pounded the region, flooding rivers that quickly attracted large numbers of crocodiles, forcing survivors to cling to trees to escape being eaten.

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