IMAGE: FLOODED VILLAGE
Andrew Heavens  /  Reuters file
The deadly flooding across Ethopia in recent months includes this village, which was swamped when Lake Tana burst its banks in early September.
updated 11/1/2006 10:50:41 AM ET 2006-11-01T15:50:41

Crocodiles and snakes hampered efforts on Wednesday to help more than 279,000 people left homeless by the latest massive floods to blight Ethiopia, which have killed 1,000 people this year, authorities said.

The overflowing in recent days of the Wabe Shebelle river in southeastern Ethiopia has submerged whole villages, washed away houses, cut off roads, killed at least 68 people and left corpses stuck in trees and undergrowth, relief officials said.

“The towns of Mustahel, Kelafo, East and West Emi, Hargele, Charati, Kebrei Dahar and Dolo Ado have all been devastated by the force of the flood,” Muktar Mohamed, relief coordinator for the affected Somali region, told Reuters by telephone.

He confirmed that 279,075 people were homeless.

The latest disaster in the world’s seventh poorest country follows the death of about 900 Ethiopians when various rivers burst their banks during the June-September rainy season.

In the latest floods in remote areas mainly inhabited by herders, relief workers said half a dozen bodies had been attacked by crocodiles, and rescuers in boats were at risk.

“Two boats sent by the federal government are operating in Mustahel. They are encountering problems of crocodile attacks,” Muktar said. He added that poisonous snakes were another hazard for both rescue workers and victims of the floods.

The Ethiopian government and U.N. agencies have sent aid to the area, although communications and transport are poor.

“It is possible that the death toll could increase, because there were reports by families of children, women and the elderly unaccounted for,” Muktar said.

About 1,000 head of cattle have been washed away and 42,010 acres of crop-laden farmland ruined, rescuers said.

Aid workers say excessive land cultivation, over-grazing and deforestation in sub-Saharan Africa’s second most populous nation -- with 79 million inhabitants -- have contributed to this year’s flood problems.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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