Tents sent to thousands left homeless by flash floods

Amid fears that the River Nile could inundate areas near Khartoum, the Sudanese Red Crescent on 5 July sent hundreds of tents to Rabak, south of the city, where flash floods have left thousands homeless.

Sudanese authorities have forecast worse floods this year than in 2006, when the Nile reached a record high. Khartoum registered a level higher than two previous records - 1988 and 1946 - and 27 people died.

The areas likely to be affected include Kassala in east Sudan, North Kordofan and Jazeera State, south of the capital. State news agencies reported that officials were making arrangements to mitigate the likely effects of the rising waters.

Alun McDonald, a spokesman for Oxfam, said the charity was helping people in eastern Sudan to prepare better this year, especially around Tokar, one of the worst-hit areas in the east in last year’s floods, by assisting in the rebuilding and strengthening of the drainage system.

Flood damage

According to the Red Crescent, the flash floods followed heavy rains around Rabak. Hundreds of houses were hit and at least 2,500 people displaced in the White Nile State.

Most people lost all their meagre belongings when heavy rains, described as some of the worst in years, caused their houses to collapse. "The Red Crescent has distributed 300 tents to some of the people affected," an official said.

Satellite television channels broadcast images of locals in Rabak inspecting the ruins of their houses and trying to salvage items such as cooking utensils from the muddy debris. Many complained the government was not doing enough to help them and accused officials of not warning the people in advance of the impending disaster.

''The Red Crescent has distributed 300 tents to some of the people affected.''

Government officials responded that the state had put in place contingency plans to ward off disaster, but conceded the amount of rainfall had been greater than anybody had anticipated.

Non-governmental organisations have raised concern about the spread of disease in areas affected by the floods and the Red Crescent said it had set up three clinics in Rabak to deal with any emergencies.

Sennar State on the Blue Nile River, southeast of Khartoum, was also hit hard, with residents saying the rains were heavier than last year.

The exact scale of the disaster has not yet been determined, but Farah Ebeid, a resident, said damage caused by the floods was extensive. "So many houses have collapsed," he said by telephone from Sennar.

Most people, he said, have sought refuge with relatives and friends in other parts of the state where the rains caused only minimal damage. "Some have nowhere to go," Ebeid added.

Ebeid explained that the local commissioner toured the worst affected areas two days ago and left after listening to people’s problems. But, he added: "People are not expecting help from anywhere."

sa/mw