Somalia's government on Sunday appealed for urgent international help to avert a humanitarian catastrophe from deadly floods rampaging through the Horn of Africa nation.
Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, whose administration is beset not only by the floods but is also girding for war with a powerful Islamist movement, made the appeal as torrential rains exacerbated already devastating damage.
"The prime minister has appealed for international help to avert a looming humanitarian disaster in Somalia," government spokesperson Abdurahman Mohamed Nur Dinari told the media.
"Without that help, we are facing a disaster where many people will die not only of floods, but also of diseases and food shortages," he said in Baidoa, the government's temporary seat about 250km north-west of Mogadishu.
Gedi made the appeal as the death toll from three weeks of floods in central and southern Somalia rose to at least 52, with villagers reporting nine people had been devoured by crocodiles unleashed by the flooding.
In addition to the deaths, at least 1,5-million Somalis have been directly affected by the raging waters, more than 50 000 people of whom have been displaced, and large tracts of farm and pasture land destroyed.
The United Nations has said the flooding could be the worst in 50 years to hit Somalia, which has had no functioning central authority or coordinated disaster response mechanisms since it was plunged into anarchy in 1991.
The limited ability the transitional administration has to provide assistance is constrained by the fact that it controls only Baidoa and the surrounding area and many keys roads have been wiped out by the floods.
"We do not have access to the affected regions because of the rains have ruined the remaining infrastructure," Dinari said.
The Islamist movement seized Mogadishu from warlords in June and have since rapidly expanded to control most of southern and central Somalia.
Both government and Islamist forces are poised for battle just outside Baidoa amid rising fears of an all-out war that could engulf the Horn of Africa region, most of which is also suffering from the floods.
Unusually heavy seasonal rains have also wreaked havoc in neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya, killing more than 100 and displacing tens of thousands, which along with Somalia were hit by killer drought earlier this year.
6 Ethiopians Are Killed in Somalia Ambush
MOGADISHU, Somalia, Nov. 20 (AP) — Islamic fighters ambushed an Ethiopian military convoy on Sunday, killing six Ethiopian soldiers and wounding 20 others, witnesses said, in the first known fight between the rival forces maneuvering for control in Somalia.
Two Ethiopian trucks were destroyed by land mines before Islamic fighters opened fire on the convoy, which witnesses said was made up of more than 80 vehicles and headed for Baidoa, the headquarters of the so-called transitional government. The attack occurred about 50 miles southwest of Baidoa.
Sheik Abdirahim Ali Mudey, a spokesman for the Islamic Courts Union, which controls the capital, Mogadishu, and much of southern Somalia, said four Ethiopian trucks were destroyed and some soldiers were killed, but he denied that his group was responsible. He described the fighting as “a popular uprising” by villagers opposed to Ethiopian troops in Somalia.
Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew Mohamed Siad Barre, then turned on one another. The interim government, formed two years ago, controls just one town.