Djibouti - Floods

Djibouti - Floods

OCHA Situation Report No. 1

16 April 2004

This report summarises preliminary information received from the UN Resident Coordinator's office in Djibouti.


1. Heavy seasonal rains in the Horn of Africa in the past days caused severe flooding in Djibouti. Authorities reported 51 deaths and over 100,000 affected people, out of which 1,500 people were homeless.

2. The Ambouli River burst its banks in Djibouti adversely affecting densely populated neighbourhoods of the capital Djibouti. Floods cut electricity supplies and washed away parts of the old railway line to Ethiopia. The road to Ethiopia was temporarily cut after the collapse of a bridge close to Wea. Most shops and primary schools remained closed.

National response

3. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Interior met with representatives of the diplomatic community and the UN agencies to brief them on the latest details on the flood-affected people. A list of needs will be provided after a meeting on needs takes place on Saturday 17 April.

4. The National Crisis Committee (ORSEC) assessed the affected areas and reported that public basic services such as water and electricity were progressively restored. More than 50% of the capital water supply was available as of 15 April. The National Office for Water of Djibouti (ONED) informed that water pipes damaged in the Ambouli River area have been repaired.

5. French and US forces based in Djibouti have rescued people stranded on rooftops by helicopter.

6. A UN needs assessment mission was dispatched yesterday to an affected area of the capital (Balbala school). Results of the assessments will be shared during the 17th April Technical meeting.

7. OCHA is in close contact with the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Djibouti and will revert with further information as it becomes available.

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DJIBOUTI: Government to move people living in wadis to higher ground


Days after torrential rains killed dozens of people in Djibouti, the government is to revive an earlier plan to permanently relocate people living in the country's main wadis - usually dry watercourses that fill up during the rainy season - to higher ground where they are safer from flooding.

The USAID-funded Famine Early Warning System (FEWS-Net) said over 100 mm of rainfall inundated much of the tiny Horn of Africa country between Monday and Tuesday. The two-day rainfall accumulation, FEWS-Net added, approached Djibouti's normal annual total.

According to the government plan, some 1,500 people living in the wadi of the River Ambouli near the capital, Djibouti City, would be the first to be moved to another spot 12 km away, Interior Minister Abdoulkader Doualeh said on Thursday. Thereafter, the situation in other wadis would be reviewed.

The first target group includes a large number of Somali and Oromo refugees from neighbouring countries, who were forced by a shortage of land in the higher areas of the city to settle in the wadis. It also included some Djiboutians, he added, who were involved in simple artisan work in the wadis.

Doualeh, who met humanitarian agencies and foreign envoys, announced that the Djibouti government was seeking US $20 million to reactivate the plan, which was first drawn up in 1994. That year a flood killed nearly 100 people in the capital.

Meanwhile, the death toll from this week's torrential rains rose to 52 on Thursday when three babies were found drowned after the River Ambouli burst its banks on Tuesday. The flooding also cut off power and damaged the main railway line from Djibouti to Addis Ababa, the capital of neighbouring Ethiopia.

By Friday, the rains had subsided. Officials told IRIN that the government was continuing to help the families of those drowned to bury the bodies, most of which had been recovered.

The director of the main hospital, Aden Deleita, told IRIN that medical personnel were taking precautions to ensure that in the aftermath of the flooding in the capital, any disease outbreak could be contained. "A lot of drowned cattle and other debris are submerged and, and as the water subsides, the corpses will begin to rot. We fear a possible outbreak of cholera or malaria," he said.


DJIBOUTI, 15 April 2004 (IRIN) 

Djibouti: Dozens dead, hundreds homeless following torrential rains

Several Djiboutian ministers met representatives of UN and other humanitarian agencies, and foreign envoys accredited to the country on Thursday to discuss widespread flooding that has left dozens of people dead, especially in the capital, Djibouti City.
Interior Minister Abdoulkader Doualeh told the meeting, which was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that at least 48 people were believed to have been drowned by the torrential rains. Another 1,500 people were homeless after rising waters washed away their homes, he added.

Schools remained closed for the third day while several roads in the capital were rendered impassable after gushing water washed away their surface. Many parts of the capital were without electricity as the power supply was disrupted.

The government stopped traffic on the main Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway amid reports that the line may have been damaged. French and US troops based in Djibouti flew helicopter missions to rescue people stranded by the floods.

Government officials told IRIN on the sidelines of Thursday's meeting that the government was preparing to appeal for US $20 million to fund a project to secure people living near the nearby River Ambouli, which had burst its banks, causing casualties and damage.

The officials said many of the bodies of those who had drowned were recovered. A separate statement issued by the Ministry of Interior on Wednesday said the government was trying to assist the victims' families.

The torrential rains, which began on Sunday, intensified the next day. Then, after briefly subsiding, they pounded the city once again early on Thursday morning.

Djibouti is a small, normally dry country covering 23,200 sq km on northeastern Africa's Red Sea Coast, between Eritrea and Somalia. It has about 500,000 inhabitants.