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51 dead in Bujumbura flood disaster

Bujumbura, Burundi - At least 51 people perished in flooding and landslides in a night of torrential rain in the Burundi capital that swept away hundreds of homes and cut off roads and power, officials said on Monday.

This photograph, released by the World Food Programme, shows a displaced Burundian boy standing outside houses that were ruined by floods at Gatumba, near Bujumbura. Picture: WFP. Credit: AFP

Police in Bujumbura said the toll was the highest in living memory from a disaster caused by freak weather, with more than 100

people also injured.

“The rain that fell in torrents overnight on the capital caused a disaster,” Security Minister Gabriel Nizigama told reporters.

“We have already found the bodies of 51 people killed when their houses collapsed or were swept away.”

Nizigama said burials of the victims would begin on Monday because there was not enough space for their bodies in the capital's mortuaries.

He was speaking at a police station in the northern part of Bujumbura, the area hardest hit by the landslides and flooding after the rains began lashing the capital late on Sunday.

An AFP journalist saw 27 bodies covered in white sheeting at the police station.

Police said several hundred homes were destroyed and more than 100 people injured in Bujumbura, which lies on the northeastern shore of Lake Tanganyika.

Houses in the poorer parts of town are often built from mud bricks, which offer no resistance to torrents of water and mud.

Nizigama, touring the disaster zone with other ministers, promised food aid to those who lost their homes and said the government would bear the cost of burying relatives and would provide new housing.

Torrential rain fell solidly for 10 hours overnight, causing power cuts in whole areas of the city.

The road leading out of the capital to neighbouring Rwanda was blocked because of a landslide while a bridge was washed away on the road to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sapa-AFP

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