NAIROBI, Kenya --Kenya's principal river burst its banks and flooded the main town in the northeastern part of the country, drowning at least 10 people, a local newspaper reported.
The rain-swollen Tana River raged into Garissa, about 217 miles northeast of Nairobi, driving an estimated 10,000 people out of their homes, The Daily Nation said. Terrified residents fled in panic with whatever belongings they could salvage and took refuge in nearby schools, the newspaper said. Rescue volunteers used canoes, while soldiers in army trucks and helicopters pulled people from the flood waters with ropes, according to the newspaper and U.N. officials. The flooding prompted local officials to appeal for blankets, medicine and clothes, the newspaper said.
Garissa, located about 60 miles from the border with southern Somalia, is a key transit point for aid operations to the flooded regions in Somalia and three refugee camps in eastern Kenya. In Somalia, flooding has killed more than 1,480 people and driven another 230,000 from their homes. In eastern Kenya, three refugee camps run by U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees near the town of Dadaab, 56 miles northeast of Garissa, are home to 122,000 refugees.
An aid official said the flooding in Garissa could hamper relief and rescue operations to flood victims. "Garissa is the lynchpin to get aid to refugees and to the affected populations in Somalia," said Peter Kessler, spokesman for the UNHCR. At least 5,000 of the refugees have been forced from their homes and more would likely follow, he said.
Flood waters, in some areas shoulder-deep, submerged large portions of the road leading to the camps, Kessler said. Emergency food carried by donkey carts was lost in the contaminated waters, he said. After flooding hit Dadaab, UNHCR moved food stocks from there to Garissa, where Kessler fears the latest flood waters could also ruin the stocks.
"There's a real threat of stocks being overrun by flood waters," he said. In Garissa, the Tana submerged nearby houses "up to their windows," Kessler said, citing UNHCR workers who left the town recently. He said the river was also threatening to submerge the bridge on the road leading west of out Garissa to Nairobi.
Heavy flooding caused by torrential rains also hit western Uganda, causing landslides and inundating roads in the Bundibugyo district, about 175 miles west of Kampala, the government newspaper New Vision reported.
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