More than 370,000 people have been forced from their homes in central Somalia by ongoing flooding.
The town of Beledweyne, about 187 miles north of the capital, Mogadishu, was inundated late last month by seasonal rains, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Local officials have said at least 22 people are presumed dead, the Associated Press reported. Ten people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shebelle River burst its banks.
Ahmed Sabrie and his family were awakened by the flood and had to scramble onto their home’s roof.
“I could hear people, perhaps my neighbors, screaming for help but I could only fight for the survival of my family,” Sabrie, a father of four, told the AP. The family waited for more than 10 hours before a passing rescue boat spotted them.
Others were unable to escape the floodwaters.
“Many people are still trapped in their submerged houses and we have no capacity and (not) enough equipment to cover all areas,” Abdirashakur Ahmed, a local official helping to coordinate rescue operations, told the AP. Hundreds are thought to still be stuck.
Children displaced by recent floods reach the outskirts of the town of Beledweyne in central Somalia on Monday,
About 230,000 of the displaced have taken refuge on a small piece of land in Beledweyne, according to Islamic Relief, an aid organization.
“The situation is dire and only getting worse,” said Ibrahim Abdi, Islamic Relief’s Emergency project officer in Somalia. “The water level is so high right now that one cannot tell the difference between the river and the land anymore. … Homes and farms have been completely destroyed.”
Nearly $19 million has been released from the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund and the Somalia Humanitarian Fund to scale up life-saving assistance.
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo toured the hardest-hit areas last week and promised government support to end recurrent floods, according to Al Jazeera.
”Last year, we witnessed a similar tragedy – we hope this will be the last kind of floods witnessed in Beledweyne. We will work with neighboring countries and all relevant authorities to mitigate the crisis and ensure our people don’t have to suffer again,” he said.
Shahin Ashraf, Islamic Relief’s global dead of advocacy, said, “The general uncertainty caused by extreme weather is increasing all of the time. After months and months of no rain, where crops and cattle died, we suddenly saw several months’ worth of rain in just a few days. The barren soil simply can’t absorb this much rain, causing violent flash floods that can engulf whole neighborhoods in minutes.
“This is a consequence of climate change and the world’s poorest, who are the least responsible for it, are being hit the hardest.”