Ethiopian floods drag whole families from their homes

A flood in the eastern Ethiopian city of Dire Dawa has swept away homes, killing over 200 people and displacing many more. Melese Awoke looks at the impact of the disaster on one woman’s life.

Hundreds of people are missing in Ethiopia following recent floods. A river burst its banks in the eastern city of Dire Dawa, sweeping away homes, killing over 200 people and displacing many more. Melese Awoke looks at the impact of the disaster on one woman’s life.

On the night between the 5th and 6th of August, filthy flood waters crashed through the door of Kimia Abdo’s mud hut, dragging herself and her family out of their home and plunging them into a bitter fight for survival.

Aid workers later came and took me to the hospital where I saw the dead bodies of many, many of my friends and neighbours

Kimia Abdo

The priority of Kimia and her husband was to rescue four of her young children who were at home that night.

“My husband rushed to save our children and managed to pluck two of them from the floor and hold on to them, while I clung to the other two, strapped to my body,” says the 35-year-old. “But my husband was unable to withstand the fierce power of the gushing water.”

Drowning

Kimia remembers that she was drowning, but somehow managed to grab a piece of iron sheeting which was lodged in the thick, soupy mud.

With the sheeting wedged under her neck, she remained afloat in the water for hours - but her children were no longer with her.

Meanwhile her husband was in great difficulty.

“I saw him, with my own eyes, in front of me, washed away with our two children. They just disappeared, through one of the walls of the hut which suddenly seemed to fall down. Seconds later, I was also snatched by the water with my other two children. It was a horrible, horrible night,” says Kimia.

Many dead

At daybreak, as the waters began to ebb, she began to look for her husband and four children.

“Aid workers later came and took me to the hospital where I saw the dead bodies of many, many of my friends and neighbours,” says Kimia.

“I learnt that my children and husband were among the dead.”

Lucky escape

Kimia’s four children were all under eight years of age. Pointing to a 14-year-old girl beside her, Kimia said that the girl was her only surviving child.

“She was at a wedding party with our relatives,” Kimia explained.

Copyright: 2006 WFP/Melese Awoke
Roads were washed away

Kimia and her daughter are staying at the Afeteissa Junior Primary School, which has been converted into a temporary settlement for the displaced people of Dire Dawa.

WFP helps

Meanwhile, WFP has released a one month ration for some 10,000 people amounting to 170 tonnes of food (cereals, blended food, vegetable oil and salt) for immediate distribution. The food is already available at WFP warehouses in Dire Dawa.

Moreover, WFP has pre-positioned some stocks of non-food items in Dire Dawa to help fill gaps should the need arise.

WFP is now assisting in efforts to register affected people so that food can be properly targeted and distributed.

Miraculous survival

Kimia Abdo has just returned to her temporary home in the school compound after a visit to a temporary mobile clinic which has been set up in the wake of the disaster.

Many of the displaced people are women, and the clinic offers health and practical advice to them.

“My survival is miraculous as almost all of my neighbours have perished,” says Kimia. “And yesterday, I spent the whole day burying my family.”