September 8, 2009 / 7:38 PM / 8 years ago

W.Africa flood toll revised to 159 dead: U.N

DAKAR (Reuters) - Floods caused by heavy rains have killed 159 people in West Africa since June, the United Nations (U.N) said on Tuesday in a sharp upwards revision of the toll from this year’s rainy season.

<p>A group of children stand among flooded crops in Mutarrara, Tete Province, in this photograph released by UNICEF on January 21, 2008. REUTERS/Thierry Delvigne-Jean/UNICEF/Handout</p>

Some 600,000 people in the region have seen damage to their homes and are facing health risks, according to new figures released by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“These are not new deaths or displacements, we just tallied the statistics we received from countries about the situation since the start of the rainy season,” an OCHA spokesman told Reuters in Dakar.

On Sunday OCHA put the death toll at 70, with a total 430,000 people affected.

At least 16 countries have been hit this year by floods and Sierra Leone with 103 deaths has the highest toll reported. The upwards revision includes deaths that were previously not counted, officials said.

“Some were washed away by the actual flood waters, others were hit by rubble and heavy rocks that fell on their homes, while many more died from injuries they sustained because they were not able to pay hospital bills,” Mary Mye-Kamara, director of disaster management at the Sierra Leone Office for National Security told Reuters.

Even Niger’s government -- widely criticised in 2005 for refusing to acknowledge it needed help to combat a severe food shortage -- appealed for help this weekend after floods left 40,000 without shelter in the northern Agadez region.

The floods have destroyed infrastructure such as roads and hospitals across the region, as well as farmland and traditional granaries, raising concern among some aid agencies about a potential food security crisis in weeks to come.

The U.N. World Food Programme has launched emergency food distribution to 50,000 flood -affected persons in Burkina Faso and 41,000 in Niger. It also plans to distribute food to about 11,500 people who were affected by floods in Rosso, Mauritania.

In 2007, about 300 people were killed and more than 800,000 affected throughout West Africa when homes, crops and infrastructure were washed away.

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