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Thai capital prepares for floods as waters rise

Benin floods affect 680,000: UN
Geneva (AFP) Oct 22, 2010 - Flooding in the West African state of Benin has affected 680,000 people, UN officials said Friday, adding that the situation was worsening and an aid airlift was planned. UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Adrian Edwards said the agency "is expecting to begin an emergency airlift to Benin in the next days amid the floods there which according to government and UN estimates are now affecting some 680,000 people." Edwards said that while the UNHCR's normal work in Benin was with the refugee and asylum-seeking population of some 7,300, "we have been called upon to help with the emergency shelter needs of some of the homeless people in southern parts of the country where we have a presence." "As of today the focus is on making arrangements for the reception, storage and distribution of our relief items," he said. "We plan to initially airlift some 3,000 tents from our emergency stockpile in Copenhagen."

The UNHCR has already been providing tents and mosquito nets from more limited stockpiles in the region," Edwards said. "We are also providing logistical support to our partners for their transportation needs while reinforcing our staff presence." The rising number of people affected in the small country of 8.8 million was "of clear concern to all of us," he added. While seasonal heavy rains have been hitting West Africa for several months Benin had experienced flooding "well beyond normal." "Fifty-five out of the country's 77 districts are affected," Edwards said. "Weather forecasts this morning show no signs of any let up yet." Elisabeth Byrs of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also said the numbers of affected people would rise, adding that an appeal for funds and aid was being planned. Experts had assessed needs for fresh water and purification measures, food and shelter, she said.

OCHA official Kemoral Jadjombaye said in Cotonou Monday that the floods had killed 43 people through drowning or the collapse of homes and left nearly 100,000 homeless. A cholera outbreak has added to the misery, with 800 cases counted across Benin, including seven deaths, Jadjombye said. Aid organisations acknowledge they face logistical problems in distributing assistance, indicating that Benin does not have a sufficient stock of emergency supplies on hand. Floods have hit a wide swathe of West and Central Africa in recent months, destroying entire villages and killing more than 100 people in Nigeria alone. Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger are among the other nations affected. Farms have also been ruined and officials have expressed concern over how the flooding will affect food supply. Nigeria's north has seen a deadly cholera outbreak this year as well. The United Nations says 377 people have died in the flooding, with nearly 1.5 million people affected since the start of the rainy season in June, a record.
by Staff Writers
Bangkok (AFP) Oct 24, 2010
Bangkok braced for rising waters encroaching on the city on Sunday as the death toll from two weeks of nationwide flooding rose to 38, emergency officials said.

The floods, which began on October 10, have affected millions of people across huge swathes of the country, inundating thousands of homes and leaving authorities struggling to reach people stranded in remote areas.

Authorities in the capital have reinforced flood walls with 200,000 sandbags and are building temporary wooden bridges in 27 communities to help people cross waterlogged streets.

More than 1,000 water pumps are on standby and authorities are preparing schools, monasteries and mosques in 13 districts for evacuation.

"From now on the river level will increase every day, as there is a period of high sea levels," said Veera Wongsaengnak, deputy director general of the Irrigation Department.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said that while floods in the kingdom's east and northeast were receding, the situation in central provinces was a concern, especially with high tides due in the next few days.

"I'm trying my best to mobilise all possible assistance to solve this problem," he said in his weekly television broadcast.

The Emergency Medical Institute of Thailand reported a further six deaths to add to Saturday's toll of 32, who were swept to their deaths or killed in accidents as vehicles were carried away by the churning waters.

The two worst-hit northeastern provinces of Nakhon Ratchasima and Buriram have each reported six deaths, while six people were also killed in Lop Buri and three died in Khon Kaen.

A further 17 people have died in eight more provinces across central, northeastern and eastern areas, including one in Nonthaburi province, just north of Bangkok.

The Irrigation Department on Saturday issued warnings to people living in seven low-lying provinces, including Bangkok, as water from further north began to flow downstream.

Around 4,000 cubic metres (a million gallons) of water per second was expected to flow into the capital's Chao Phraya river, which coupled with high sea levels surging from the other direction could cause floods in parts of the city.

But water levels were unlikely to be exacerbated by rainfall in Bangkok and central provinces in coming days, according to the meteorological department.

The commerce ministry warned businesses not to take advantage of the floods by hoarding goods or raising the prices of construction materials, the Bangkok Post reported.

"If traders use this opportunity to lift the prices higher they could face a maximum of seven years in prison and a maximum fine of 100,000 baht (3,500 US dollars)," Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai was quoted as saying on the newspaper's website.

More than 2.5 million people, or 800,000 households, have been affected by the two weeks of flooding, which has hit 30 out of Thailand's 76 provinces, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said.

Bad weather has battered countries in the region in recent weeks, with dozens killed in Vietnamese floods and nearly 50 people left dead in the Philippines and Taiwan by Typhoon Megi, which has roared into southern China.

In western Myanmar, Cyclone Giri killed at least one person on Friday and left tens of thousands in need of help.

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West African floods swamp Benin
Cotonou (AFP) Oct 20, 2010
Families sleep by the roadside under shelter made of scrap wood and metal, their homes destroyed by the rains in Benin - the country seen as the hardest-hit by West African floods this rainy season. "I had two children who died by drowning on October 2 after the rain that hit Cotonou," said Delphine Behanzin, 37, as she sat in the shade. "I'm lost. They were my reason to live." Floods h ... read more

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