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Heavy rain kills seven, wrecks property in Niger
by Staff Writers
Niamey (AFP) Aug 19, 2011

Heavy rain has killed seven people and done considerable damage to property in Niger, the government and radio stations said Friday.

"The toll is two dead in the Maradi region and two others in Tillaberi," according to an official statement read on national radio, while the private radio Anfani announced the further deaths of three children aged between eight and ten when their house collapsed in a village in Maradi.

In the southern Maradi province, floodwaters destroyed almost 600 homes, a mosque and three business establishments, the communique added.

According to Anfani radio, the deaths in Maradi took place in the Mayayi district, where people who have lost their homes have been given shelter in schools and in mosques. Some 200 families were affected in Mayayi.

Youssoufa Maiga, governor of the western Tillaberi province, said on public television that the two people killed in his region were drowned.

He added that about 280 homes collapsed, while 630 hectares (1,560 acres) of cultivated farmland was destroyed and about 260 head of cattle were lost.

The reports were the first of casualties and damage this year in the deeply poor, landlocked west African country, which is largely desert and prone to severe droughts and the risk of famine.

Maiga launched an urgent call for help to those affected, and thanked the local Red Cross, which has already provided blankets and mosquito nets.

At Agadez in the north on the edge of the desert, the army rescued 17 bus passengers after their vehicle was swept away by floodwaters, according to the public television.

The Sahel nation only has one rainy season, between June and September, and any prolonged delay in the rains could compromise the cereal harvest, on which depends more than 80 percent of the population of 15 million.

According to the Niamey government, about 2.6 million people are already in a state of "food insecurity". Last year, the country suffered one of the worst food crises of its history.

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