IMAGE: FLOODED HOMES
Daud Yussuf  /  Reuters
Displaced Kenyans carry their belongings though flood waters in Garissa, near the Somali border, on Nov. 18.
updated 11/20/2006 11:40:26 AM ET 2006-11-20T16:40:26

The United Nations began evacuating thousands of people on Monday from a refugee camp in northeastern Kenya cut off by the worst floods in years.

Torrential rains have battered the Horn of Africa in recent weeks, killing hundreds and uprooting thousands in large parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia.

In northeast Kenya, the UNHCR refugee agency says more than 78,000 people lost their homes when storms swept across three remote camps near the Somali border. It is now telling residents of the worst hit camp, Ifo, to move to higher ground.

“We have been living under floods for the last week,” one refugee, Mahdi Abdi Radim, 44, told Reuters after ferrying his sick mother to the UNHCR offices by donkey cart. “We’ve lost our shelter. You can see more rains are coming so we are moving.”

Behind him, groups of men trudged through knee-deep water carrying bedding and sacks of food on their heads. UNHCR expects some 15,000 people to leave Ifo this week.

“This is an emergency that surpasses the capacity of the office and the resources we have to manage the operation,” said Geoff Wordley, a senior UNHCR emergency officer in the area.

Nearby, 15-year-old refugee Achol Benjamin sat listlessly in a plastic chair, her head slumped, unable to move or talk.

“We want to go to Hagadera (another camp),” explained her brother Michael, standing outside their family’s sodden shelter. “But carrying her will be a problem. Tell them to bring a cart.”

Across east Africa, some 1.8 million people have been affected by the floods -- which in many places have washed poisonous snakes and dangerous animals into inhabited areas.

In Somalia, at least five people have been killed by crocodiles as they waded through waist-deep floodwaters.

Kenya’s Red Cross and Red Crescent charities called for $7.8 million to help some 300,000 people affected there. “The rains have caused severe destruction,” the groups said in a statement.

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