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Aid workers struggle to help homeless in Sudan floods
By Abdelmoneim Abu Idris Ali
Kasala, Sudan (AFP) Aug 16, 2016

11 dead, 40,000 homes flooded in Louisiana
Gonzales, United States (AFP) Aug 17, 2016 - The death toll from historic flooding in Louisiana climbed to 11 on Tuesday as the expanding flood zone prompted authorities to declare disasters in 20 parishes of the southeastern US state.

While flooding receded in parts of southern Louisiana, other areas saw rising waters. The National Weather Service issued renewed flood warnings.

"We're seeing unprecedented flood levels as the waters move south," Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said at a news conference.

Officials said 40,000 homes have been impacted by the floods and more than 8,000 people were in shelters.

More than 20,000 have been rescued or evacuated, they said.

Twenty parishes -- similar to counties in other states -- were declared emergency disaster areas, up from four on Monday and 12 earlier on Tuesday.

The designation frees up federal money to aid with rescue operations and emergency housing, among other things.

"We're just now moving into recovery phase. We're still rescuing in the southern part of the parish," said Layton Ricks, the president of Livingston Parish -- more than 75 percent of which was affected by flooding.

There were reports of looting in areas where homes and businesses were abandoned by fleeing residents.

Many municipalities implemented evening curfews to combat the problem, and to allow rescue crews to move freely at night.

"I felt this is the best way to protect our residents," said East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, adding that 10 people were arrested for looting since Monday afternoon.

- People 'suffering' -

Edwards said there were still some 34,000 households and businesses without electricity in torrid summer heat and humidity -- raising concerns of mold in waterlogged buildings.

"There are still a lot of people who are suffering," he said.

The Louisiana governor's office confirmed to AFP late Tuesday that 11 people had died in the flooding.

Rescue crews were searching for more victims, with officials uncertain about how many people remain missing.

"We are going door to door," said Baton Rouge Fire Department Chief Ed Smith, describing a search and rescue process that he estimated could take another five to seven days.

Rescue workers are also searching cars that were inundated or carried away by flood waters.

"We are going to have to search and mark each of those automobiles," the governor said.

Ordinary citizens in small boats -- who in the last few days have earned the title, "Cajun navy" -- appeared to outnumber formal rescue crews.

Among them were John Booth and Austin Tupper of Baton Rouge. The two men in their 20s had traveled 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast to the hard-hit town of Gonzales, where they were using their private boat to help residents evacuate.

Gonzales flooded only in the last 24 hours, as waters drained south.

- 70 percent flooded -

Vast swaths of southern Louisiana remained under water -- several feet deep in many places -- inundating homes, businesses, and cars.

Rick Ramsey, the mayor of Walker -- a town of 6,000 people east of Baton Rouge -- told CBS television affiliate WAFB that his town was heavily damaged.

"We are in as good a shape as you can expect with 70 percent of our population flooded," Ramsey said.

"What you're seeing now is tremendous community spirit," he added. "People are helping each other."

The station also broadcast video from inside the city hall building of Denham Springs, also east of Baton Rouge, that showed the flooding had reached chest high before receding.

The number of people staying in shelters is fluctuating, officials said, because some people were leaving while others were entering from newly flooded areas.

Aid workers are struggling to get hundreds of tonnes of aid to people made homeless by widespread flooding in Sudan after torrential rains severed a highway and other roads.

Trucks and vehicles loaded with relief supplies and construction materials were stranded in the eastern state of Kasala as authorities battled to repair damaged roads, an AFP correspondent said.

Aid workers said it would be days before relief reached all of those affected by the worst flooding to hit the impoverished region in years.

"The main problem we now face in delivering aid is how to reach those affected," said Hussain Saleh, an aid worker with Kasala-based NGO Tlawaiet.

"The highway has been cut and other rural roads are also damaged, making it difficult to reach villagers stranded in remote areas."

"The only way to reach them is by helicopter, and that's very expensive for local NGOs like us."

Aid workers said relief was arriving in tonnes but that NGOs and government officials were unable to forward it.

Kasala, bordering Eritrea, was one of the worst areas hit after the river Gash burst its banks, flooding villages tens of kilometres (miles) away.

Thousands of houses were destroyed and several villages submerged after heavy rainfall killed at least 100 people nationwide, including 25 in Kasala.

Floodwaters severed the main highway connecting Kasala to the city of Port Sudan, and also inundated a railway line that crosses the region.

-- Fears of diseases --

"We are worried about the impact of the disaster on the health of those affected," said Saleh.

"We have already been to some areas where people have fallen sick."

An aid worker with an NGO working in the healthcare sector said there was a steady rise in cases of malaria in villages swept by water.

"We don't have enough medical staff and transporting medicines is a big problem because the highway is cut," he said on condition of anonymity.

"So far we have been unable to reach villages that are submerged in water."

Kasala governor Adam Jamaa told AFP that aid was already reaching those affected.

"Right from the beginning we had the situation under control," Jamaa said.

"We have provided food, shelter and medicines to the affected people. We are satisfied with what we did."

- No sign of aid -

However, there was no sign of humanitarian workers or relief supplies in several affected areas toured by AFP over the past two days.

Hundreds of families continue to live in makeshift grass tents or in the open alongside badly damaged roads as their home villages are still under water.

"It's been 10 days now. Nobody has brought drinking water or food for us," said Tahir Osheikh, whose village is 70 kilometres (45 miles) from the Gash river.

His family, like hundreds of others, has had to survive on muddy rainwater.

"Our entire stock of food is lost. We want to buy sorghum, but we would have to go to Kasala city and that's very expensive," Osheikh said of the staple food in Sudan.

Behind him his wife collected dirty water in a cooking pot, and some children drank from it.

The damage was widespread and severe in Kasala, where most of the houses destroyed were made of mud and bricks.

United Nations aid agencies had already warned of the danger of flooding in Sudan between July and November.

The most affected states are Kasala, Sennar, South Kordofan, West Kordofan and North Darfur, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Tuesday.

It said heavy flooding since early June has affected more than 161,000 people and destroyed over 14,000 houses in many parts of Sudan.

"Tonight me, my children and my wife will sleep on the ground under the sky," said Mohamed Issa, another homeless villager from Kasala.

He said his children were afraid of sleeping outside in the dark.

"Our neighbour's child died after he was bitten by a snake in the night," Issa said.

"There are many snakes in the rainwater. It's not safe."

Kasala -- inhabited mostly by farmers -- has seen floods in the past, but residents said this year's had been the worst ever.

"The floods submerged our crops and killed our livestock," said Osman Ali.

"We're living under the sun, sleeping on the ground and wearing the only clothes we have."

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Previous Report
Seven dead, 30,000 rescued in record Louisiana floods
Baton Rouge, United States (AFP) Aug 16, 2016
Louisiana faced epic flooding Monday, with seven people killed and thousands evacuated to emergency shelters after waterways in the southern part of the state overflowed their banks. Some areas have received more than 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain since late Thursday, submerging vast swaths of southern Louisiana in muddy waters. "Our state is currently experiencing a historic floodi ... read more

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