Sudan declares state of emergency over devastating floods

Homes, hospitals and farms hit as Nile waters reach levels not seen in about 100 years

A picture shows flood waters in Tuti island, where the Blue and White Nile merge in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, on September 3, 2020.  / AFP / ASHRAF SHAZLY
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Sudanese authorities have declared the country a natural disaster area and imposed a three-month state of emergency across Sudan after rising floodwaters and heavy rainfall killed about 100 people and inundated more than 100,000 homes since late July.

The announcement was made late on Friday after a meeting of the country’s Defence and Security Council headed by Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan.

Flooding caused by seasonal heavy rainfall, mostly in neighbouring Ethiopia, led the Nile River to rise about 17.5 metres in late August, the highest level it has reached in about a century according to the Sudanese Irrigation Ministry.

The ministry said water levels of the Blue Nile were higher than the 1988 flood levels that destroyed tens of thousands of homes in several parts of Sudan and displaced more than one million people.

Labour and Social Development Minister Lina Al Sheikh said the flooding had killed about 100 people,  injured at least 46 others and affected more than 500,000 people across the country. More than 100,000 houses were totally or partly collapsed, she said.

The UN humanitarian agency has warned that the situation is expected to get worse over the coming weeks, as above-average rains are forecast until the end of September.

The capital of Khartoum was hit hard in the past two weeks. Residents in several districts of the city were erecting barricades as water from the Nile swept through several neighborhoods.

The military deployed troops to help evacuate people and build barricades in Khartoum as well as distribute food, after flooding there cut roads and swept away houses and belongings.

Earlier this week, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, said access to clean water, which is critical amid the coronavirus pandemic, has also been reduced, with the floods knocking out or contaminating about 2,000 water sources.

OCHA said last week that the flooding also damaged at least 43 schools and 2,671 health facilities across the country, and that large swathes of agricultural land across the country were also flooded in the middle of the harvest season.

The UN refugee agency, or UNHCR, said tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people were affected, particularly in North Darfur province, where 15 people have died and a further 23 have gone missing.

OCHA urged wider support from the international community, as a $1.6 billion humanitarian plan for Sudan is less than 44 per cent funded and aid stocks have been “depleted rapidly.”

Seasonal rains and flooding between July and August last year left a total of 78 people dead in 16 of Sudan’s 18 provinces, according to the UN.