Floods caused by torrential rain in parts of southern Somalia have killed more than 23 people and displaced thousands over the past five days, aid workers and residents said on Tuesday.
The death toll is partly based on figures given by residents in different parts of southern Somalia contacted on two-way radio, the most common means of communication in this Horn of Africa nation, which has had no effective central government for 15 years.
Ali Bashi, the head of the Fanoole Human Rights Organization, said that the highest number of deaths had been reported in the Gedo region, which borders both Ethiopia and Kenya. He said that nine people died in the floods there, among them four children.
Local representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and other local non-governmental organizations said that thousands of people in southern Somalia had been forced to leave their homes after rain caused the Jubba and Shabelle rivers to burst their banks in five regions of the country.
Drivers in southern Somalia said they had seen thousands of people on roads that pass a string of towns near the Jubba and Shabelle rivers. The drivers said that the people are in search of higher ground after having fled their homes.
Dozens of these people arrived in the capital, Mogadishu, to take refugee in temporary camps here.
"We could not deal with the flooding because it ran through all the dams constructed by the former government and we had no other option but to save our lives," said Aasho Haaji Abdi, a mother of six children, at a temporary camp in Mogadishu -- in what was the main post office.
David Gilmore of CARE International said that the southern agricultural town of Jowhar, which has hundreds of canals cutting around it and the surrounding areas, have been devastated by heavy flooding from the nearby Shabelle River.
"The torrential rainfall has affected road transport, where much needed relief supplies and food have been cut off to communities, which have been affected by consecutive years of drought," said Gilmore, who is CARE International's country director for Somalia.
In neighboring Kenya, a woman and child died and thousands of Somali refugees were made homeless after heavy rain pounded refugee camps in the country's northeastern regions and destroyed the refugees' shelters, said Eddie Gedalof, the UN refugee agency's acting representative in Kenya.
The deaths and destruction occurred on Friday, but have only been made public on Tuesday because aid agencies were assessing the effects of the rains since Saturday in a region where many of the roads have become water-logged and impassable, said Gedalof.