At least 24 people have been killed in flash floods caused by torrential rain in the Malian capital Bamako, a government official said.
Thousands were also made homeless as the Niger river burst its banks, destroying around 100 houses in several hours of heavy rain on Wednesday in the city of around two million people, Alassane Bocoum, the national director of social development, said on Thursday.
The worst damage was done to poorly constructed mud-brick homes on drainage sites on the banks of the river, although residents reported concrete homes had also been battered by the raging floodwaters.
“A monitoring group has been set up to get people to abandon homes built largely of dried mud that could collapse,” Bocoum said, adding that the serious flooding had been confined to the capital.
Flooding often leads to widespread displacements and casualties during West Africa’s June to October rainy season, as well as disease outbreaks due partly to poor sanitation.
Entire streets and several bridges across Bamako were submerged, and motorcyclists and pedestrians found themselves suddenly caught up in rising floodwaters.
I have been in this neighbourhood for 30 years. I have seen floods here, but never on such a scale
Bamako mayor Konte Fatoumata Doumbia said two schools equipped with mattresses and mosquito nets had been set up as emergency shelters for the homeless, the state-owned national daily newspaper Progress reported.
“The damage is enormous…. There haven’t been any deaths here but the rainwater is up to our knees at home. The state must act, and fast,” Gaoussou Kanoute, 30, a resident of one of the worst-hit areas, told AFP news agency.
As workers and householders began the massive clean-up and rescue operation, local government officials became the focus of much of the anger, with residents accusing the authorities of failing to maintain a proper drainage system.
“I have been in this neighbourhood for 30 years. I have seen floods here, but never on such a scale. This is the first time I have seen such a large amount of rain fall,” Amadou Sidoro told Progress.
The flooding in Bamako is the first big challenge to face president-elect Ibrahim Boubacar Keita since his election on August 11, which was also marred by heavy rain in the capital and flooding in the north.