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Families stranded on roof tops as Shabelle river floods in southern Somalia farming district

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Kaydka Ergo

(ERGO) – Ifiye Ma’alin Hassan and his family of nine have spent five days camped out on the roof of their house near Beletweyne, in southern Somalia’s Hiran region, after floods inundated their village.

Ifiye, who spoke to Radio Ergo by mobile phone, said they were crammed onto a small space on the rooftop with only some plastic bags to cover the children in the continuing rain. They were surviving on sorghum that they had managed to fish out of the flood water below, cooked in a big metal washing basin to avoid setting the house on fire.

The floods rose quickly on 20 April as the nearby Shabelle river burst its banks, washing through the village of Lebow, around 11 km from Beletweyne town.

When Radio Ergo’s correspondent spoke to Ifiye, he said they had left it too late to evacuate with the children as the water had risen too high around them. He was worried that their supply of food would run out and that the wooden roof supports might collapse under the weight as it kept on raining.

Ifiye’s phone could not be reached when we tried to reach him again to follow up on his situation.

Over the past few days, more than 1,000 families have fled their homes in Beletweyne and five surrounding villages due to the floods, according to local leaders.

Ali Sheik Mohamud, the commissioner of Lebow, told Radio Ergo that 210 families in the village have been affected by the floods.  Some left their houses to move to higher ground, while others are stuck on roof tops.

The commissioner said he was unable to reach out to help other families as the floods have cut off all roads and pathways.  He said if they had realized the floods would be so bad, they would have evacuated the area earlier but they had stayed hoping that the water would recede.

Earlier this year the river had run dry following the prolonged drought. The water had only started flowing again in March.

The commissioners of Lafole, Garash, Nim’an and Shinile villages said the residents there all left before the water levels rose too high. The people affected are both farmers and livestock herders.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s SWALIM flood alert, the Shabelle river level has risen dramatically to within a few centimeters of reaching full bank level with high risk of flooding at Beletweyne. Moderate to high rainfall is forecast for the week ahead.

There are similar high flood risk warnings around the Juba river at Luq and Bardera in Gedo region. In the last two days, farmers in Bardera and 57 villages close to the river Juba in Gedo region have suffered heavy flooding that washed away crops in over 900 fields covering 5,868 hectares. The head of the farmers’ association in Bardera, Mohamed Abdirahman Matow, told Radio Ergo this amounted the biggest losses in the area in more than two decades.

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