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Deadly floods uproot tens of thousands in Central African Republic’s capital

Weeks of torrential rain have caused severe flooding in Central African Republic's capital, Bangui, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless in a city of one million that is still recovering from years of conflict.

The Oubangui River burst its banks mid-October, plunging large parts of Bangui underwater and causing seven deaths and 25 injuries, the Red Cross said. Other provinces of the country have also been affected.

Heavy rainfall and flooding driven by a weather phenomenon called the Indian Ocean Dipole have hit several East African countries since July. In South Sudan, flooding has affected close to a million people, while more than 300,000 people have been temporarily displaced in Somalia.

Photographer and journalist Adrienne Surprenant has been on the ground in Bangui taking stock of the destruction and speaking to people affected. She found mud-brick homes in ruins and raw sewage mixed with stagnant, trash-strewn stormwater running through the city, where some people now travel around on wooden fishing boats.

It's a disaster for a country that was fighting to develop, said Antoine Mbaobogo, president of the Central African Red Cross. People are displaced, infrastructure is destroyed manioc fields are lost.

Virginie Baikoa, CAR's minister in charge of humanitarian action, told The New Humanitarian that three or four shelter sites would be established to host flood victims in the coming days and weeks.

The government has been working since the very beginning of this situation, Baikoa said. Women and children have been put in a safe place, and food and non-food items are being distributed, she added.

But flood victims complained to TNH of a lack of organisation and support. Many were still sleeping near their destroyed neighbourhoods, under fragile tarpaulins that offered little protection from the ongoing rains or from snakes and mosquitoes. Water-borne diseases could soon spread.

We will not have aid from the government," said a sceptical Stanislas Begia, who had been sleeping outside with his wife and eight children for a week. "No support will get to us if it goes through the government's hands."

Bangui has been periodically rocked by violence since 2013, when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance overthrew the government of Francois Bozize, triggering reprisals from the mostly Christian and animist anti-balaka. Both groups have since splintered into smaller factions.

A February peace deal was signed by rebel officials and the government but key provisions have been slow to get going and violence is now rising in the provinces, where rebels still retain almost blanket control.

Source: The New Humanitatian