Widespread flooding hits Djibouti after more than six months' worth of rain in just several hours, East Africa

Widespread flooding hits Djibouti after more than six months' worth of rain in just several hours, East Africa

Intense rains from April 20 to 21, 2020, triggered widespread flash flooding across the city of Djibouti and its suburb of Balbala, causing eight fatalities and affecting approximately 110 000 people. The city received 80 mm (3 inches) of rain in a few hours-- more than half of its annual average rainfall which is 127 mm (5 inches). The Intergovernmental Authority on Development has issued a regional flood risk alert on April 23, as exceptionally high rainfall is forecast until April 26 in Djibouti, southeastern Ethiopia, Kenya, southern Somalia, northwestern Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.

At least eight people lost their lives, including three children and two women. The victims died after floodwaters swept away their hut, situated at the margin of the river that separates Djibouti town from Balbala.

Several other huts were damaged while roads were submerged. The government promptly mobilized water pumps and other assets to drain floodwaters. Some COVID-19 testing facilities located in the Hospital Bouffard were also hit.

Initial estimates show that around 18 000 households, or approximately 110 000 people, were affected by severe floods. 

Authorities from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Solidarity (MASS) were deployed to conduct situation assessment and determine which households are the most critically affected.

UNHCR said they received several requests for help by urban refugees who were suffering from the floods. Initial estimates also added that around 700 refugee families in Djibouti city were impacted. Another crew was dispatched to examine the situation in the refugee villages in the Ali Sabieh province.

The city recorded 80 mm (3 inches) of rain in just a few hours, which is more than six months' worth of its average rainfall. The average rainfall in a year is 127 mm (5 inches).

Light to moderate rain with isolated thunderstorms is forecast across Djibouti city and other provinces in the southern region. 

Several other countries in East Africa were also battered by heavy rains over the past week. On April 17, mudslides killed six people in Rwanda, while about 27 000 people in neighboring Burundi had to deal with the aftermath of heavy rains.

In Kenya, at least 4 000 were displaced and fatalities were also reported due to landslides. On April 20, at least 36 casualties were reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo following days of intense rains, which caused major damage and destruction in parts of the country.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development has issued a regional flood risk alert on April 23, as exceptionally high rainfall is forecast until April 26 in Djibouti, southeastern Ethiopia, Kenya, southern Somalia, northwestern Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.

Featured image credit: @Niimegal/Twitter

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