Protests follow fatal Algeria flood

Protests follow fatal Algeria flood

Al Jazeera, 3 october 2008

Almost 5,000 people have demonstrated in the Algerian town of Ghardaia to demand urgent aid after flash floods killed 31 residents, witnesses say.

Police broke up the rally on Friday just before protesters reached the town hall to demand basic food supplies and equipment to help search for survivors or bodies buried in the mud and rubble.

The town has experienced an acute shortage of basic goods and medicines – most of which have been damaged due to the flooding.

At least 31 people died in the Ghardaia flood. Aid teams worked to help the hundreds of people made homeless by the inundation. The army was deployed to prevent looting, state radio reported.

Fifty people were injured and about 1,000 made homeless in the town, a UN World Heritage site, 600km south of the capital, Algiers, at the entrance to the Algerian desert in the M’Zab valley.

Ahmed Ouyahia, the prime minister, gave « strict orders for victims of the natural catastrophe to be taken care of by releasing » unrestricted funds, Djamel Ould Abbas, the minister for national solidarity said on Friday.

Emergency calls

The interior ministry sent tents, generators and 400 tonnes of first aid, but residents said they needed emergency supplies more quickly.

State radio said the water level was eight metres high in some parts of the town.

Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni, the interior minister, said the floods were the worst in the country for a century. Residents reported sweeping damage.

A resident of El-Gaba, a village near Ghardaia, said: « Hundreds of houses have been destroyed but thousands have been damaged and are uninhabitable in the area.

Another resident said four people from the village had died and three others were missing in the « unimaginable catastrophe ».

One resident said nearly all the homes would have to be rebuilt. Gas and electricity supplies have been partially restored.

Several parts of Algeria were lashed by heavy rain including Djelfa – midway between Ghardaia and Algiers – where two people were killed.

Flooding in the Algiers region in 2001 killed more than 800 people and caused considerable damage. Source: Agencies