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Horn of Africa flooding worsens

/ Source: Reuters

The worst floods in decades have killed 11 more Kenyans in the last two weeks, bringing the death toll to 34 since last month, the Red Cross said on Wednesday.

Torrential rains have battered the Horn of Africa region in recent weeks, killing hundreds, uprooting thousands more and triggering a humanitarian disaster. Somalia and parts of neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya have been particularly hard hit.

“Our assessment is one person died in Northeastern province and 10 in Eastern,” a Kenyan Red Cross spokeswoman said.

Earlier this month, the charity appealed for $7 million for flood relief, and she said it would now need more than that.

So far, the appeal had only raised about $70,000, she said.

Emergency aid
A Kenyan government minister gave a lower overall death toll, saying 20 people had died since the floods began. He said the authorities were working with the United Nations to deliver emergency aid and move affected communities to higher ground.

“Our estimation is that 20 people have died so far,” said Wario Ali, an assistant minister for special programs. He said the government had spent $3 million so far on relief operations.

At the weekend, aid agency ActionAid urged Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki to declare the flooding a “national emergency."

But on Wednesday government spokesman Alfred Mutua said relief efforts were under control.

“The flooding is still not as bad as El Nino. It is something we are managing. We are not in the habit of declaring anything a national emergency,” he said.

Somalia is worse
The situation is worse in Somalia, where more people have lost their homes, but security problems have restricted efforts by aid agencies to help them.

“In some areas people are sitting on dykes, completely surrounded by water and have no access to drinking water and food,” said the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In a statement on Wednesday, it said it was airlifting tarpaulins to 350,000 Somalis in the worst affected areas.

Weather experts expect the rains to continue into January.