August 14, 2006

More than 1,100 families flee Sudan floods

By Opheera McDoom

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Heavy floods have forced more than
1,100 families to flee in Sudan, while the river Nile has risen
to a serious level, an official said on Monday.

Awad Widatalla Hussein, head of the civil defense
authority, said only one person was officially confirmed dead,
although Sudanese papers carried numbers of at least eight
killed in Khartoum alone.

The Nile in Khartoum was at 16.40 metres on Sunday, above
its height on the same day in 1988, when scores of people were
killed and hundreds of thousands lost their homes due to heavy
rains and floods.

"This Nile level is high alert," Hussein told Reuters. "It
is very serious."

"The difference between now and 1988 is that now we have
mostly flooding and then we had heavy rain too," Hussein said.

Hussein said he did not expect the effects of the floods
this year to be as bad as in 1988.

"Now the Sudanese people are more aware of floods and the
government is more prepared." He said there were 10 checkpoints
along the river to measure water levels.

Parts of the capital were under water on Monday with many
of the dirt roads turning to clay pits. Rainstorms knocked out
electricity in many parts of the town.

Areas of Tutti Island in the confluence where the Blue and
White Nile rivers meet in Khartoum were under water.

Heavy floods have been common in the past few years in
Sudan's east along the Blue Nile but happen more rarely in the
capital and the north where much of Sudan's population live.

An outbreak of cholera early this year in the south, the
western Darfur region and in Khartoum has heightened fears of
water-borne diseases spreading because of the floods.