(ERGO) – Tractors that were being mobilized for farm work ahead of the rainy season are being used as local transport to ferry people and goods across the flooded roads of Beletweyne in southern Somalia.
Abdukar Ali Yusuf, a driver, told Radio Ergo he charges $2 a trip to take people across the floods. He said he has to keep to the paved road as the water conceals deep ruts that could plunge the tractor into the flooded river.
There have been several fatal accidents reported involving the tractors.
According to Abukar, he knows of five tractor accidents. In one, five people died when a tractor overturned. In the most recent accident on 11 May, two people died including a well-known religious leader and five others were injured.
The river Shabelle overflowed its bank again on 12 May. Those who had fled their submerged homes had been planning to return, but the water levels quickly rose again. The swollen river has made Beletweyne’s two famous bridges used by pedestrians and vehicles impassable.
Most people cannot afford to pay for transport. Crossing the river poses many dangers.
Mohamed Ahmed Guure, 19, lost his friend and made a narrow escape himself when he was carried away by the flood. He was trying to cross the river to take rice and sugar to his relatives stranded on the other side.
“We were knocked over by the water and we fell into the river. Hassan hung on to me and we were both pulled under the water and then we lost each other in the water,” said Mohamed. Mohamed clung to a tree on the river bank for almost two hours until some passers-by came to his rescue. Hassan is still missing.
According to the Mayor of Beletweyne, Abdullahi Ahmed Maalin, 144,000 people have been displaced by the floods. He said there have been huge losses of property that cannot be quantified.