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Belatwein hit by Shabelle floodwaters


Some 2,400 people in 400 households in Belatwein, the capital of Hiran region in central Somalia, have been displaced and their homes put under floodwater from the Shabelle River, swollen by rainfall in its upper regions in the Ethiopian highlands.

The flooding did not involve a flash flood and people were able to rescue some of their belongings rather than being left destitute, a UN humanitarian official told IRIN on Tuesday. Residential areas of Belatwein had been flooded, as well as farms along the riverbanks, and the road leading to Kismayo and Mogadishu had been cut off at Kansuuma, Somali media reported.

"The floodwaters are increasing and have forced people to flee. The displaced people are now in urgent need of food, shelter and medical assistance," AFP quoted Hiran regional governor Hassan Abdulle Qalad as saying.

It had not rained in recent days in Hiran or the Ethiopian highlands so it was hoped, "with fingers crossed", that the worst of the flooding was now over, the UN aid official said. In fact, though germination would now be fine, it was again likely to become a concern in June that farmers get an adequate amount of rain for their crops, he added.

A multi-agency UN mission last week reported that 600 to 700 families had been displaced by Shabelle floodwaters in and around Bombasso village, 45 km southwest of Merka. It identified at least two other vulnerable areas: Qoroley, 28 km northwest of Merka, and Mubaahrak, 25 km to its north.

The UN is mobilising to provide the flood-displaced people with the basics - water purification, mosquito netting, blankets, sheeting and drugs - as well as implementing quick programmes to help communities repair river embankments, the mission report stated.

In the longer term, it hopes to dredge the Shabelle, in which silt has built up over recent years such that the river is actually higher than the surrounding plains in some parts, making conditions ripe for flooding.



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